Every set in the Division II East District 2-A volleyball championship match was up for grabs at the end. But it was Notre Dame that won them all.
The tournament proved to be a microcosm of the unpredictable regular season with ultimately the third-seeded Lady Irish upending host and top-seeded Boyd-Buchanan 3-0 by set scores of 25-20, 26-24, 25-21.
The Lady Buccaneers were regular-season champions but had two losses among their 10 league matches. One was to Notre Dame, which was 7-3 in the district and now sits at 2-2 against Boyd-Buchanan with one of the losses in a tournament.
"We knew five of the six teams could win it," Notre Dame coach Dan Clotfelter said. "I thought we made some improvements in the last two weeks, but I wasn't completely sure if they were going to show up on the court. They got there just in time, I guess."
Second-seeded Chattanooga Christian defeated fifth-seeded Silverdale Baptist Academy 3-2 for third place. Set scores were 25-20, 18-25, 19-25, 25-14, 15-9.
The District 2 teams will match up against the Knoxville area's District 1 teams in the East Region tournament. Notre Dame (29-16) and Boyd-Buchanan (29-10) will play at home in Saturday's quarterfinals while CCS (28-17) and Silverdale will be on the road. Boyd-Buchanan announced it plans to play at 4 p.m.
The Lady Irish jumped to a 9-3 lead in the first set of the final. And there was not another lead as high as six points for either team the rest of the way.
The Lady Bucs came back in that first set and led as late as 16-15. Their largest lead in the match was five, which they held on three occasions in the second set — the last at 22-17 — and at 12-7 in the third.
"I thought they served extremely well," Boyd-Buchanan coach Nancy Culver said. "They exploited some of our weaknesses. They attacked and we backed down. We definitely didn't play our best. The second and third sets we were ahead both times and we let up instead of working. I thought we played afraid, playing not to lose instead of playing to win. You can't do that in a championship match."
Clotfelter acknowledged that Boyd-Buchanan is a good blocking team but credited Sarah Desai, who ended up with 31 assists, for setting up various teammates in various spots. Mackenzie Johnson and Jazzmyne Watkins totaled seven kills apiece for Notre Dame, and Kyla Mitchell and Claire Vander Werf added six each.
"I think our setter, Sarah Desai, may have played her best match," Clotfelter said. "She made good choices who to go to. It makes it tough for their blockers to deal with everybody."
McKenzie Mann scored with 4.5 blocks for the Lady Bucs, but no one else was a factor in that area.
"Notre Dame was good," Culver said. "They had a good game plan and they executed it."
Libero Ally Mildenberter topped the Lady Irish in the final with 16 digs and five aces and was chosen the tournament's most valuable player. Johnson led with three blocks.
Mann was also Boyd-Buchanan's kills leader with nine. Meredith Balthrop paced the Lady Bucs with 11 digs and nine assists. Jordan Furtney and Madison Taylor each served three aces.
Chattanooga Christian was led by A.J. Johnson's 19 kills and six aces. Rachel Kay led in assists with 22. Summer Jones had 19 digs.
Silverdale's leaders included Katie Patrick with 10 kills and six blocks, and she matched Harper Sutton with 10 digs. Savannah Gann totaled 29 assists and Ansley Junkins had four aces.
Contact Kelley Smiddie at email@example.com or 423-757-6653. Follow him on Twitter @KelleySmiddie.