published Friday, September 23rd, 2011

Lady Lions in control

Kennedy Fager and Allison Walden (left to right) of East Hamilton High School jump for a block against Red Bank High School at East Hamilton in Ooltewah on Thursday. Red Bank won the game 3-0.
Kennedy Fager and Allison Walden (left to right) of East Hamilton High School jump for a block against Red Bank High School at East Hamilton in Ooltewah on Thursday. Red Bank won the game 3-0.
Photo by Alex Washburn.

Not just yet, Lady Hurricanes.

It was as though that was Red Bank's message in a 3-0 high school volleyball victory Thursday night at East Hamilton. Game scores were 25-21, 25-19, 25-17.

The Lady Lions dropped down to Class AA three years ago and were state champions in 2009 and runners-up last year. Thursday, they clinched at least a tie for the District 6 crown, which they also won each of the last two seasons.

"They didn't want to relinquish that title," Red Bank coach Christel Brooks said after her team improved to 22-9 and 6-0 in the district. "They know the bar is up there. They want to keep it up there."

East Hamilton (22-4, 3-1) came in with the more attractive overall record, but the upstart Lady Hurricanes' lack of big-match experience showed. Katie Loftin and Elizabeth Behrend are the program's first seniors.

"We definitely had a good chat and I was very specific about what we'd be doing tomorrow in practice," East Hamilton coach Kristy Lenoir said of her postmatch locker-room gathering. "As a coach, you hope they learned something from this. If we meet up again and don't play well, it won't be for a lack of being told or working on it."

The Lady Hurricanes last led 7-6 in the first set but stayed competitive throughout. They were leading 6-2 in the second when aside from Kennedy Fager's kill coming out of the timeout Red Bank called, their fortunes changed. The Lady Lions scored five consecutive points to tie it and never trailed after going up 9-8.

"I just thought we needed to regroup because they were making a run," Brooks said. "Volleyball is a game of momentum. We were hoping it could shift right there, and it did."

Red Bank got out to an 11-3 lead in the third and led by at least six the rest of the way.

"We've just got to be mentally tougher," Lenoir said. "I know after we lost the second game we came out real flat in the third game. That goes back to being mentally tougher."

Savannah Nelson paced Red Bank's net play with 17 kills and three blocks, and Ansley Helton sparked the back-row effort with 24 digs and three aces. Abby Graham totaled 33 assists for the Lady Lions, who were solid in some areas the Lady Hurricanes were not.

"Our ball control was big and our serving was big," Brooks said. "If you can do that, the other team is going to make some unforced errors. That's part of it."

Briley Considine's five kills and Allison Walden's three blocks were highs for East Hamilton. Emily Clemmons had nine assists, Loftin had eight digs and those two along with Behrend served two aces each.

about Kelley Smiddie...

Kelley Smiddie is a sports writer who has worked at the Times Free Press for 12 years. He covers high school sports and softball. Kelley’s hometown is Chattanooga, and he graduated from Brainerd High School and graduated Chattanooga State and UTC. Contact Kelley at 423-757-6653 or ksmiddie@timesfreepress.com.

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