After having to miss a good portion of the volleyball regular season due to injury, Red Bank middle blocker Bailey Lee stepped up and helped deliver a second straight sectional berth.
The Lady Lions' lone senior helped power a home sweep against Stone Memorial in Tuesday's Region 4-AA semifinals, as Lee was ferocious at the front net with eight blocks.
Despite going on to lose a three-set region final against Livingston Academy, which battled to a 29-27 second-set victory, the home team inside Susan Ingram Thurman Gymnasium had a lot to be proud of.
"We knew we had to come out and put up blocks and play as a team, and that's what we did," Lee said. "My teammates all played with positive energy and really worked hard. We have all stuck together through the ups and downs this year, and that's helped us get to where we are today."
Red Bank (15-24) was tough on the defensive side to begin what was the first of back-to-back matches, and Arreyanna Glass blocked back-to-back shots to give the Lady Lions an 8-3 lead and force a quick Stone Memorial timeout.
Hustling on the back line to make point-saving digs, Bailee Phillips also sparked the offense with powerful and well-placed hits to help beat the Crossville team by the scores of 25-15, 25-22 and 25-15.
The Lady Lions blocked 20 shots in their season-prolonging victory.
"You have to have middles in order to accomplish anything," coach Buzz Ricks said. "We were without Bailey for a month and a half this season, and when she is in there she gives us a huge boost. We made them work for every single point."
Taking less than a 30-minute breather before starting the final, Red Bank held its own battling point for point through the first two sets, which it lost by just a combined six points.
Livingston Academy came through in the big moments to win by the scores of 25-21, 29-27 and 25-10. Livingston will host Hixson on Thursday with the winner advancing to the state tournament.
Lee hopes her team can change history when the Lady Lions travel to East Hamilton, who swept them last year in the sectional round.
"We worked all season to get back to where we were last year," said Lee, who had 10 kills and 11 blocks in Tuesday's action at Red Bank High School. "Seeing how much my teammates picked me up this season and how they love me really has impacted me. It has made me work harder. They are going to be really good next year even after I'm gone."
Contact Patrick MacCoon at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @PMacCoon.