GPS defeated Pope John Paul II 3-0 in the first round of the TSSAA Division II-AA state volleyball playoffs Saturday. When the coaches left the court at GPS, one was clearly more pleased than the other, and it wasn't the winning Bruisers' Paul Brock.
Although GPS prevailed, the set scores of 27-25, 25-23, 25-22 against the eighth-seeded of eight teams in the East/Middle Region prompted a lengthy closed-door team meeting in the coach's office immediately after.
"They took them for granted. We creamed them pretty bad when we played them in Nashville," Brock said of a match that took place Sept. 8. "Our girls thought they were going to come in here and lay down when we started playing, and that didn't happen. They came out with fire.
"It really emphasizes to me how we have to play to our level. You lose from here on out and you're done."
Up next for GPS (30-11) is a trip to Memphis to take on St. Agnes in a quarterfinal this Saturday.
Trailing by a point, the Bruisers went on a 6-0 run that put them up 12-7 in the first set. Not only did the Lady Knights not fade away, they scored nine of the next 12 points to retake the lead.
Pope John Paul II (17-29) never got to set point in the opener but did take a 23-22 lead in the second before back-to-back kills by senior Sadie Lett and an ace by recently promoted freshman Jenna Simpson bailed out the Bruisers. GPS got up by 21-14 in the third set, but after a timeout the Lady Knights rallied within 22-21 before falling.
"When you've got games that come down to two points, it's some of the little things," Pope John Paul II coach Kim Shaver said. "I'm proud of how we competed but disappointed because we didn't come up with the big plays and the big moments. We just didn't close it."
Brock said Lett didn't play well by her standards but still had 23 kills for GPS to go with 17 assists and 16 digs. Destinee Lansden added 14 kills and three blocks.
Tianna Mills led the Bruisers with five blocks and Simpson led with four aces. Kelby Crownover and Olivia Berger had 18 and 17 digs.
Mia Buda topped the Lady Knights with nine kills and was one of three with 10 digs. Jessica Herrera set 18 assists.
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.