Sale Creek's volleyball senior night highlighted a band of six players who have helped the Lady Panthers make two consecutive state tournament runs.
In clinching another 30-win regular season with a 3-0 nondistrict sweep of Red Bank on Tuesday night, Sale Creek seemed ready and capable of making a third trip to Murfreesboro next month.
The set scores were 25-11, 25-8, 25-8.
"These seniors have been with me since the sixth grade putting in all the summer hours and hard work that a lot of players don't want to do," Sale Creek coach Debbie Hill said. "This team definitely has its strengths with our passing being so strong and consistent. I feel like we have an advantage as well with our game up front this year being so strong."
Red Bank (13-23) started on a strong note against a Lady Panthers team that had swept the Class AA Lady Lions twice before this season. Red Bank fought its way to a 6-6 tie in the first set until Sale Creek (30-6) rattled off six straight points behind the strong work of senior Madysun Steele, who had five kills in the set.
A bevy of separate runs made quick work of the Lady Lions in the second and third sets. Steele and classmate Sydney Gibson led the offensive charge in a second set that contained three 5-0 runs for Sale Creek. Gibson recorded four kills in the frame while Steele had three kills and three aces.
The No. 2-ranked Lady Panthers from District 5-A were stronger than ever in the third set, when they won six of the first seven points. Another senior, Reagan Ayres, showed her strengths in helping Sale Creek take nine points in a row in a third set in which she finished with six kills.
"This is probably the best team we've had since I've been a part of it," Ayres said after leading the Lady Panthers with 15 kills in the match. "We're really all together like a team should be. We don't play for ourselves — we play for each other — and that's why I think we're going to go far again this season."
Steele finished right behind Ayres with 14 kills. She also added four digs and five blocks. Gibson recorded nine kills with five blocks and two aces. Lillie Morgan and Avery Cox added nine kills and 10 digs, respectively, senior Jayda Perry led the passing game with 45 assists.
The Lady Panthers will wrap up their regular season Thursday at Rhea County before district tournament play begins next Monday.
Contact John Mitchell at firstname.lastname@example.org