That was the case in Thursday night’s District 1-AA volleyball finals match at Sullivan East as the Sullivan South Lady Rebels downed Elizabethton in a wild, hard-fought sweep: 25-22, 25-23 and 26-24.
The tournament title is South’s eighth in a row.
Junior outside hitter Abbey Jayne was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player after finishing her evening with a double-double of 12 kills and 11 digs.
South’s Katie Watson and Meredith St. Clair were also named to the all-tournament team.
St. Clair finished her night with 21 digs while Watson had seven kills and six digs.
Sydney Goodsell and Morgan Smith each had 10 kills to lead Elizabethton.
Smith also had 14 assists and 10 digs for a triple-double. Goodsell accumulated 26 digs.
“I think the girls have had a season where they had harmony and everything was working. They’d be a little nervous when they would get to the big games,” South head coach Wendy Ratliff said. “This was more like a sigh of relief for them. We could have easily lost these last two games. It was exciting, but it was a relief.”
The first set was the initial indicator of how the match was going to go as the Lady Rebels quickly jumped out to 5-2 lead. The lead extended to as much as 14-8, but Elizabethton would not quit.
Behind some South defensive miscues and Elizabethton finding some holes in a tall Lady Rebel front line, Betsy rallied and scored 11 straight points to go up 19-14.
South answered the bell to tie the match at 20, then score five of the next seven points to take the first set.
“We’ve learned that this season and, unfortunately, it’s been something that we’ve done all season,” Elizabethton head coach Leslee Bradley said. “We’ve been down, but we are not out and we know that. We started playing point by point instead of looking ahead and that’s how we got back in it.”
Again in the second set, the match was close, but it was Elizabethton jumping out to the lead.
South seized the lead at 16-14 for the first time and was able to close out the set, fittingly, on a Jayne kill.
The third set was the wildest of all. South came out with guns blazing, going up as much as 14-4. The outlook was bleak for the Lady Cyclones, but they had one more gasp of air.
Little by little, ’Betsy chipped away at the South lead and eventually found itself down by a mere point 22-21.
It looked as if the wind had been completely taken out of the sails for South when Elizabethton came back from the depths to take a 23-22 lead. However, the Lady Rebels had experience on their side.
South weathered the storm and was able to grab the lead back at 25-24 and the match ended on an Elizabethton hitting error.
It seemed as if Elizabethton was always playing from behind — and when it did get the lead, South wouldn’t let the Cyclones shut the door.
“It’s just the way volleyball is,” Ratliff said. “The score really isn’t an indicator of how good one team is playing. Neither team relaxed and both offenses were really good.”
The regional tournament will be held on Tuesday, Oct. 9 at Greeneville High School. All three matches will be on one day.
Sullivan South will play Northview Academy while Elizabethton draws host Greeneville.
The match times have yet to be determined.