CLEVELAND, Tenn. -- As is often the case in a tournament matchup between fourth- and fifth-seeded teams, the high school volleyball match Monday at Bradley Central between Cleveland and Walker Valley didn't disappoint. One of the teams, though, was bound to end up disappointed.
It turned out to be the Lady Mustangs, who dropped the last two sets as Cleveland came away with a 3-2 victory. Set scores were 25-15, 28-30, 18-25, 25-22, 15-6.
The other first-round matches ended 3-0 with Soddy-Daisy defeating Rhea County 25-13, 25-19, 28-26 and Bradley Central beating McMinn County 25-12, 25-22, 25-17.
Cleveland (24-21) plays top-seeded Ooltewah this afternoon at 5, and Soddy-Daisy (32-18) takes on Bradley Central (28-12) at 6:30. Winners secure berths in next week's Region 3 tournament in addition to playing for the district title Wednesday at 6 p.m.
Cleveland's Lady Raiders coasted to the first-set victory after taking the lead for good at 4-3, but they lost a marathon second set in which they had set point at 27-26. The Lady Mustangs appeared to seize momentum, especially coming back from down 13-9 to win the third set.
Cleveland came back and was on set point with the Lady Mustangs at 18 in the fourth set, then had its lead cut in two. After forcing a fifth set, the Lady Raiders fell behind 3-2 before getting a 4-0 run there and another 4-0 run to end it with a 3-0 run in between.
"My heart was pounding," Cleveland coach Trish Flowers said. "I was burning up. You could cut the tension with a knife. It was the kind of match you don't believe you won until they put that last point on the scoreboard."
Walker Valley coach Judy Pruett said it was tough saying goodbye to the seniors. Her oldest daughter, Taylor, who led the Lady Mustangs with 16 digs, is one of them.
"It was a great match," Coach Pruett said. "It was kind of what we expected. I thought it would go at least four games of five games, not 3-0 either way. After the third game we just kind of did the letdown thing. The fourth game we made way too many errors. We came back at the very end when they were on 24, but that was a little bit too late. The fifth game there we couldn't get a break."
Marissa Langford topped the Lady Raiders with 27 kills and Cassie Hale added 14. Jessica Murray had 15 digs and Kellee Geren had 14 to go with a team-high 44 assists.
Baylee Boen led Walker Valley with 18 kills. Bristol Snider led with 22 assists and had 14 kills. Autumn Sizemore contributed 10 kills and a team-leading three aces.
Alex Schafer paced Soddy-Daisy with 11 kills and Chloe Mitchell led with 26 assists and four aces. Other leaders were Hannah Robertson with 23 digs and Laura Jenkins with five blocks.
Contact Kelley Smiddie at email@example.com or 423-757-6653.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.