CLEVELAND, Tenn. — With one last go-around, Lily Oliver has embraced her leadership role to help drive Cleveland on the volleyball court.
The senior middle blocker affected countless hits and was precise on her big swings in Monday night's four-set home victory over Girls Preparatory School.
"We always encourage each other to stay into the game and not let runs affect us," Oliver said after her team won by the set scores of 25-23, 25-19, 23-25, 25-23. "I feel it's one of my duties to step up and lead the team and bring us back together when everything is falling apart. I want to be one who gives us hope."
With springs in her legs, long arms and solid court awareness of how to finish her shots, Oliver landed 12 kills and had zero errors. She also contributed in the blocks and aces categories as the Lady Raiders (21-6) had 10 of each.
Oliver was dominant to close the second set as she tipped the ball to spots the Bruisers could not get to along with building a wall with a sophomore teammate.
"Lily has really come on this year," Cleveland coach Amy McGowan said. "She didn't serve last year, but she is one of our strongest now. Her confidence is through the roof, and she dominates the net. She did a great job with Jordan Whitcraft tonight. They got their hand on the ball and controlled things up front."
Whitcraft finished with a match-high eight blocks against a dangerous offense. Cleveland junior Joy Douglass had a team-high 14 kills and 21 digs.
GPS setter Faith Copeland placed spot-on service assisted Ansley Blevins, Preslee Brooksbank and Chapel Cunningham for big kills in the third-set victory. After letting slow starts get the best of them the first two sets, the Bruisers (7-5) showed great energy as they fought back from a 9-5 deficit in the third and made things interesting.
Brooksbank registered a match-high 18 kills, while Cunningham and Blevins each had 12. Copeland led all with 44 assists.
"Our girls played with great energy at times, but we have to start stronger and maintain it," GPS coach Jasmine Brown said. "We have to relax. Cleveland made us fight for it tonight. They were swinging hard, picking up a lot of balls and weren't quitting. They challenged us well."
With the teams locked up at 22-22 in the fourth set, Oliver stepped up again at the net and broke the tie.
"We work hard to not let the ball hit the floor and really work well together on the court," Oliver said. "This group has great chemistry, and I think our strengths blend well."
Contact Patrick MacCoon at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @PMacCoon.