Judging by the celebration that set off near midcourt, it was clear that even a sixth straight trip to the state tournament is still a big thrill for the Red Bank High School volleyball program.
Although they swept three sets from Notre Dame, the Lionettes had to fight for the last two, rallying from 19-17 down in the final set to win 27-25 in their Class AA sectional match for a berth in next week's state event in Murfreesboro.
"We went through some rough spots this season, but those times prepared us for how to battle for those close sets we needed tonight," Red Bank coach Mandi Munn said. "Notre Dame gave us a good fight, but I'm very proud of the way the girls handled the pressure, and we got a lot of contributions from different players.
"To get to six straight state tournaments is huge for our program."
After cruising to a 25-13 win in the first set, Red Bank had to hold on for a 25-23 win in the second. The Lady Irish rallied from 17-9 down to score 10 consecutive points before Red Bank fought back for the narrow third-set win.
Abby Graham led Red Bank with 12 digs, four kills, 10 assists and a pair of aces, while Autumn Babb added 29 digs and two aces and Hannah Wilson had 11 digs and five aces.
"I'm stoked just because of how our girls played so hard," Notre Dame coach Ted Hackett said. "After that first set, we were right there and could've won either of the last two with a couple of breaks. We're a very young team, so this is definitely something positive to build on."
Contact Stephen Hargis at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6293.