KINGSPORT — Sullivan Central stared elimination in the face while Sullivan South, Science Hill and Dobyns-Bennett swept through the first round of the District 1-AAA volleyball tournament.
But it’s not how the teams advanced that counts now — what they do over the next three days that will go a long way in determining each team’s postseason fate.
“Everybody’s coming in on the same plane and it doesn’t matter,” D-B coach Kathi Shaffer said. “You can talk all you want, but you’ve still got to play the games.”
Top-seeded South kicked off the first round with a 25-9, 25-14, 25-5 sweep of No. 8 Daniel Boone.
The Lady Rebels moved well and turned digs into kills with peak efficiency against a young group of Lady Trailblazers.
For South coach Wendy Ratliff, it was just what the doctor ordered after she lost her voice during an exciting final week of the regular season that included a landmark win over the Tribe.
The co-Big 9 Conference champs also won an important coin flip last week that landed the Lady Rebels the No. 1 seed this week, but they weren’t about to look past Boone.
“We were hoping today would be a good way to get us started in the tournament,” Ratliff said. “I think if you look at our conference, there’s nobody that you can take for granted. I don’t really have to make that speech a lot.”
Kelsey Smith had six kills for South (34-10) while Taylor Fink added 11 assists and eight aces.
The Lady Rebels advanced to face fourth-seeded Central, which survived thanks to marathon victory against No. 5 Tennessee High.
The Lady Cougars won 25-22, 23-25, 25-14, 21-25, 15-13 against an energetic Lady Vikings squad. The fifth game was tied at 12, but Central scored a pair of points to build some breathing room before Jacqueline Kestner hammered home the winning point.
“Everybody knows that tonight somebody goes home, and that’s a different kind of pressure than you have any other time of year,” Central coach Tracy Graybeal said. “We didn’t want to go home tonight. I was pleased that we finished.”
Brianna Cox and Kara Mann lead Central (28-10) with 10 kills each while Kestner added nine. Lauren Blevins distributed 35 assists while Kenzie Darnell came up big with 34 digs for the Lady Cougars.
The third-seeded Lady Hilltoppers swept No. 6 Volunteer 25-20, 25-17, 25-23, much to the relief of Science Hill coach Kim Hyatt.
The Lady Falcons tied the third game at 23 and appeared ready to grab the momentum before the Lady ’Toppers slammed the door.
“It really was important for us to take the third,” Hyatt said. “We’ve got to really step up our game tomorrow night. We’ve got to really be moving on the court and aggressive with everything.”
Ivey Rice led Science Hill (28-6) with nine kills while Courtney Dennis added seven and Kensey Rice dished out 32 assists and made 10 digs.
Science Hill will face No. 2 Dobyns-Bennett, which easily won the nightcap, 25-6, 25-13, 25-10 over No. 7 David Crockett.
Meredith Hardy slammed home 10 kills for the Tribe (42-3) while Megan Devine added 12 digs, eight kills and five aces. Lori Peterson had 16 digs for D-B while Katie Jones chipped in with 11.
South will face Central today at 5 o’clock while D-B and Science Hill will square off at about 6:15.
Ratliff expects the competition to be fierce the rest of the week.
“The next three days is like a dogfight between four teams and I have no idea how it’s going to go,” she said. “I hope we come out and play. I think starting tomorrow night, it’s kind of on.”