KINGSPORT — In a battle between two of the top defensive volleyball teams in the Big 8 Conference, Tennessee High blinked first and Sullivan South pounced.
The Lady Rebels rode a wave of consistency to a 25-14, 25-9, 28-26 sweep of the Lady Vikings on Tuesday night.
Tennessee High seemed to lose its focus in the second game, allowing South to reel off 12 out of 13 points at one juncture. When the dust cleared, the Lady Rebels held an insurmountable 2-0 lead.
The Lady Vikings fought hard to avoid the sweep, but South slammed the door by coming from six points down in the third game to close out the match.
Both coaches pointed to the second game as the key to the outcome. Despite dropping the first game, Tennessee High was hanging within a point early in the second when South abruptly turned a tight 5-4 contest into a 17-5 runaway.
“In the second game, South took us totally out of it and our girls quit,” Tennessee High coach Mary Johnson said. “We had a long talk after the second game. That second game is not Tennessee High volleyball.”
South’s hitters pierced Tennessee High’s defense while its back line dug up most of the Lady Vikings’ scoring opportunities. The Lady Rebels ultimately scored 20 of the last 25 points to win the pivotal second game and grab a huge momentum boost.
South coach Wendy Ratliff said her team’s emphatic victory in the second game was a combination of a few different factors.
“I feel like they may have taken themselves out because we were playing aggressively, but I didn’t change anything,” Ratliff said. “Volleyball is a game of momentum, and maybe that’s what it was.”
Johnson said her players returned to the bench after the second game and faced a simple choice — play harder or go back to Bristol for an impromptu practice session.
The Lady Vikings came out with more fire in the third game and actually controlled it for most of the way.
Tennessee High held the lead until South rallied to tie the score at 18. From there, it was a back-and-forth battle that was decided by South’s ability to execute on a few key points down the stretch.
“I hate losing, but at least they got it back together in the third game and put a lot more effort into it,” Johnson said. “We had a chance to win it — at least we ended on a good note.”
Kim Johnson led the way for South (7-1, 2-0) with six kills. Kelsey Smith added four kills and Krista Reed chipped in with three.
Tyra Hutchins had 12 digs and five aces for the Lady Rebels while Taylor Fink dished out 19 assists.
Carson Widener had 17 digs and 25 service receptions for Tennessee High (1-2 Big 8) McKinnley Thomas had 10 digs.
Katlin Fabbri hammered home seven kills for the Lady Vikings while Jenny Matheson tallied four blocks.