Anyone who saw only the fifth set in Tuesday's District 5-AAA high school volleyball match at East Hamilton may have thought the teams played close all the way.
But in reality, the only similarity between the Lady Hurricanes and Soddy-Daisy was that they both took up-and-down paths on the way to that fifth set, where East Hamilton outlasted the Lady Trojans for a 3-2 victory. Set scores in the first match for both teams were 25-18, 8-25, 25-18, 11-25, 15-13.
"I am thrilled to win," East Hamilton coach Kristy Lenoir said. "There were parts where we played terribly, but the girls just did not lay down and quit. We've got more new people than we have returning. We're just doing a lot of learning to play with each other right now."
Both teams had a lead in the fifth set, East Hamilton by as many as five points and Soddy-Daisy by two. But there were many more momentum swings on the way there. For instance, the Lady 'Canes opened a 23-9 lead in the first set.
"We were a little tight, a little anxious," Soddy-Daisy coach Lorri Johnson said. "We do have five seniors, but they were nervous as cats all day waiting to play. It took us a little while to settle down. When we play under control, we can play with anybody in the state. We had some yo-yo moments. But I can't be too displeased with how we played overall.
"I'd rather lose one now than later."
Her team took a 12-2 lead in the second set and kept it a double-figure margin the rest of the set. East Hamilton led most of the third set, then fell behind 15-14, only to outscore the Lady Trojans 11-3 the rest of the way. In the fourth, Soddy-Daisy went up for good at 4-3 on an ace by Abby Walker, and the Lady Trojans ended up scoring 11 of the last 15 points in that one.
Both coaches observed plenty of things to work on as the season progresses.
"We've got to quit giving up strings of points," Lenoir said. "You can get yourself in a big hole when you give up five, six points off of one server."
Said Johnson: "It's not enough to have great plays. You've got to have them consistently."
Emma Lenoir, who had three kills among East Hamilton's first four points in the deciding set, led the Lady 'Canes with 21 kills. Lenoir's 14 digs were second to Samantha Headrick's 17, and her nine assists were second to Autumn Lowery's 23. Headrick also topped East Hamilton with four aces, and Meredith Stott led with two blocks.
Walker paced Soddy-Daisy with 11 kills and Alex Volker led with three blocks. Hannah Robertson was the digs leader with 30, and she, Chloe Mitchell and Walker each had two aces. Mitchell's stat line also included nine kills, two blocks, 24 digs and a team-high 30 assists.
Contact Kelley Smiddie at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6653. Follow him at twitter.com/KelleySmiddie.