Hixson opened its District 6-AA high school volleyball season Thursday and already may be the league's team to beat the rest of the way.
The Lady Wildcats hosted the district coaches' preseason favorite Central and had plenty of chances to lose the match. But Hixson regrouped each time and persevered past the Lady Purple Pounders 3-2. Set scores were 25-19, 18-25, 21-25, 25-20, 17-15.
"It's a nice win for us," Hixson coach Janet Tate said. "It's a great win, but we've got a long ways to go.
"I thought we played well. I thought we played hard. We just didn't quit. We knew it was going to be that kind of match. Central has a good team."
Central (15-6, 1-1) had beaten the Lady Wildcats 2-0 in last week's Choo Choo Classic tournament and would've won Thursday had it been best-of-three. Even so the Lady Pounders led by a point before getting outscored 8-3 down the stretch in the fourth set, and they lost a 12-7 lead in the fifth.
"We didn't play our best," Central first-year coach Robin Moore said. "We had 38 hitting errors, if that tells you anything. We should be the best team in this district. I hope they'll learn from it and come back strong next week."
Hixson (9-12) was down 9-5 in the fifth when Tate used her first timeout. Two Lady Wildcats points later, Central called a timeout. Then the Lady Pounders built their five-point advantage, only to see Hixson come out of a timeout and reel off four straight points to get within 12-11.
"Volleyball has more momentum swings than any sport I know," Tate said.
Central, at 14-13, and Hixson, at 15-14, were unable to cash in set points there. But the Lady Wildcats' Virginia Rivers from the back row got her only kill when it was tied at 15, and Abby Tipton, who led Hixson with 23 digs, served out the match.
Paige Lawson topped the Lady Wildcats with 13 kills and Ciera Taylor's all-around performance included team highs of three aces and 14 assists to go with seven kills and 22 digs.
Tiffani Estep, who has committed to Shorter University, served five aces for Central and was a force at the net with 27 kills.
"She's very quick," Tate said. "We just tried to get people up on her. She's all that."
Sam Scott paced the Lady Pounders' defensive effort with 34 digs and contributed four aces.
"We've got some talent on this team and I think Central is still a team to watch," Moore said. "Even though today we didn't play our best ball and we've got things to work on, I believe the girls are going to be proud of this season. I really do."
Contact Kelley Smiddie at email@example.com or 423-757-6653. Follow him at twitter.com/KelleySmiddie.