The Lady Rebels fell in four sets, 22-25, 13-25, 25-21, 22-25, in a TSSAA Class AA elimination match at Middle Tennessee State on Wednesday.
South closed out its season at 32-12 after winning a 10th consecutive conference title and eighth consecutive region crown.
“They were a good team and they’re probably just as seasoned as we are,” South coach Wendy Ratliff said of East Hamilton. “They’ve got some really good hitters and we struggled to block.
“I couldn’t have asked for anything more and I’m really proud of them.”
The Lady Hurricanes’ Madison and McKenna Hayes showed early on they were going to be a big problem for South. Older sister Madison is a highly touted basketball recruit — ranked No. 50 in the Class of 2020 and the No. 10 guard by ESPN — and killed balls left and right, skying up as though she were grabbing rebounds.
The first set was back and forth with three ties before the Lady Hurricanes seized a 22-21 lead late and never looked back, and they hammered the Lady Rebels in the second set for a 2-0 lead in the match.
Then the momentum turned.
South started out hot in the third set, building a 7-3 lead and adding to it with more aggressive serving and better defense. With even the Upperman crowd on hand to watch the next match cheering on the Lady Rebels, the stage seemed set for a comeback after they pulled to within 2-1 of the Lady Hurricanes.
“This team wanted to be together and they wanted to play together,” Ratliff said. “That’s the basis for determining how far you’ll go is how much the team wants to be together and how they’re willing to work.”
South stormed out to a 16-9 lead in the fourth, and the match seemed destined for a winner-take-all fifth set. But East Hamilton found a reserve tank and stormed back to forge a tie at 20.
The charge took the wind out of South’s sails, and the Lady Hurricanes secured the win.
Abbey Jayne and Maddie Townsend, stalwarts for South all season, finished with 16 and 13 kills, respectively. Makkenzie Compton had a double-double with 12 digs and 11 assists, Olivia Delung tallied 25 assists and libero Meredith St. Clair came through with 28 digs.
“These girls walked into this tradition,” Ratliff said. “They’ve spent all kinds of time playing volleyball in the summer and all year round. They all love this sport and they represented our school really well.”