The Lady Rebels were down in the fifth set 6-1, and their chances of returning to Murfreesboro were beginning to slip away. That’s when head coach Wendy Ratliff called a key timeout to help her players settle their nerves and regain their composure.
“We’ve dug ourselves in holes like that before,” Ratliff said. “I called timeout a little bit early to just kind of breath and calm the nerves. I told them in the huddle that they love each other.”
The opening set looked like it was going to be a breeze of a match for South, as the Lady Rebels went up 14-5 early on and the offense was clicking on all cylinders. Abbey Jayne, Katie Watson, Maddie Townsend and everyone else was contributing on offense.
Anderson County looked like it had been caught completely off guard with no offensive flow and the defense was looking suspect.
That all changed in the second set when the Lady Mavericks jumped out to a quick 3-0 lead and the South defense suddenly had holes in it.
The back line for South was not playing well to start the second set and Anderson County’s libero along with the back line was getting to everything.
“We were getting frustrated because we couldn’t kill the ball,” Ratliff said. “Their libero played awesome and their setter is really good, too.”
South trailed as much as 16-7 in the second set, but went on a 6-1 run to get back in it at 17-13.
South got within 21-19, but the Lady Mavs pulled away to tie the match at one game apiece.
The third set was back and forth from the get-go with seven ties and six lead changes. Neither team had more than a four-point lead and Anderson County eventually pulled out the set to go up 2-1.
The fourth set was a mirror image of the third, almost as it was blow-for-blow. It was like two prize-fighters in the 12th round with South taking the lead at 18-14. The lead was almost insurmountable at that point, and South was able to pull it out to send the match to the deciding fifth set.
Jayne had a monster night with a double-double of 16 kills and 21 assists. Watson also had a double-double with 19 kills and 10 digs.
Makkenzie Compton had 30 assists while Olivia Delung had a third double-double for South with 30 assists and 19 digs.
Townsend had 17 kills along with six digs while libero Meredith St. Clair held down the fort on defense with 39 digs. Halle Dykes chipped in with 14 digs.
“It’s the greatest feeling in the world. When we hit 14 points in the fifth set, I was already tearing up,” senior Maddie Townsend said. “When we got down, I huddled them up and I said, ‘Ladies, I love you no matter what happens, and we’re going to win with heart. If we go out, we’re going to go out fighting.’”
The state tournament will begin on Tuesday at Middle Tennessee State University.