Sale Creek's Lady Panthers won their third consecutive TSSAA Region 3-A volleyball championship Monday, defeating Columbia Academy 3-0 in the final at Sale Creek. Set scores were 25-11, 25-19, 25-9.
Sale Creek and Columbia Academy each won its semifinal match 3-0. The Lady Panthers beat Community 25-5, 25-12, 25-14. The Lady Bulldogs defeated Marion County 25-8, 25-15, 25-8.
Both teams advance to Thursday's state sectionals, where Sale Creek (35-12) again will play at home. The Lady Panthers will play the runner-up from Region 4, which plays its tournament today. The teams involved are East Robertson, Merrol Hyde, Watertown and host Gordonsville.
After cruising to the first-set victory in the championship match, the Lady Panthers trailed 15-14 in the second set before rallying.
"We do tend to relax just a little bit," Sale Creek coach Debbie Hill said of her team's response to handily winning the first set. "But I felt confident we'd pick it up.
"I think we played really well overall. Our passing was really good. When that's working, everything's good."
The Lady Panthers' Abbey Burton was selected the tournament's most valuable player after registering 25 kills and 34 digs in their matches, and she served four aces in the final. Other all-region players for Sale Creek were Gracie Janow (20 kills overall) and Madysun Steele (21 kills, 30 digs overall, five aces vs. Community). Jayda Perry totaled 76 assists.
* Region 3-AAA: At Cleveland, defending champion Cleveland will meet Walker Valley in the final tonight at 6. They beat Warren County and Cookeville by 3-1 scores Monday
"This is the first time in our history that two District 5 teams will be playing for the Region 3 championship," Cleveland coach Trish Flowers said. "We played pretty well (against Warren County). Emma (Flowers), especially played lights out."
* Region 3-AA: At Kingston, East Hamilton beat Loudon 3-0 in a semifinal and then downed Hixson 3-0 for the championship. Hixson defeated Kingston in its semifinal.
* Region 2-A: At Pikeville, Bledsoe County and Polk County will meet in tonight's final at 7 EDT. Bledsoe defeated Copper Basin 3-1, rebounding after losing the first set. Polk, a 3-1 winner also, won two before Harriman forced a fourth set.
Div. II-AA begins
The Division II-AA state playoffs begin today. Among the matches, GPS (29-13) travels to Nashville to take on Harpeth Hall at 5 p.m. EDT.
The teams split during the East/Middle Region regular season with each winning 3-1 on its home floor. The match at Harpeth Hall was Aug. 19; the rematch was Sept. 9.
"The first time we played them, each game we lost was only by two points," GPS coach Alfie Dodd said. "The game we won was 25-16. We're just looking for a little more consistency, and keeping a good mentality. Talent-wise, we can play with anybody.
"We travel pretty good. We've got a good fan base that goes with us. At this point, keeping our mindset on the right things is what we need because right now, it's one and done."
The winner of the match will play Saturday at Brentwood Academy. Region champion Baylor (38-5) plays at home Saturday against the winner between Hutchison and St. Agnes.
Contact Kelley Smiddie at email@example.com or 423-757-6653. Follow him on Twitter @KelleySmiddie.