MURFREESBORO — There’s only one undefeated team left in the TSSAA Class AAA volleyball tournament.
The Lady Indians swept both highly-touted Ravenwood and defending state champion Independence on Thursday at Blackman High School, emerging victorious from the winners bracket to clinch a spot in today’s state championship match at Middle Tennessee State.
The Tribe (51-3) will take on either Independence or Ravenwood at 4 p.m. Eastern time.
“We just want to show that little Kingsport, Tennessee, can play and came down here to win and nothing else,” D-B senior Megan Devine said.
The Lady Indians fell short in the state tournament in each of the past two seasons, losing to Brentwood in the semifinals.
“The second we got beat last year, this was our goal,” Lady Indians coach Kathi Shaffer said. “To win the state championship. That’s our goal. It has been for a year.”
Nashville teams have been the Achilles heel for D-B at state the past two years, and Ravenwood and Independence both split with the Lady Indians in the regular season.
On Thursday, D-B beat both with relative ease.
Ravenwood didn’t take its first lead until tallying a 6-5 advantage in the second game. Its last lead came at 14-13 in the third game, erased by a Devine kill. Devine had a huge effort in that sweep-clinching set, and finished with 33 digs, 15 kills and three blocks against the Lady Raptors.
The Lady Indians’ senior outside hitter was just as impressive against Independence, racking up 18 kills and 29 digs. Independence seemed to lose its mojo after dropping a contentious opening game, playing much of the remainder of the match facing significant deficits.
“We proved our point and showed everybody that we could play,” said Devine, who’s verbally committed to East Tennessee State. “We just played our game.”
“I wouldn’t trade her for anybody in the state,” Shaffer said of Devine. “Not only is she that talented, she is that smart. She’s so smart on the court.”
Shaffer adjusted her lineup prior to the Ravenwood match to give the Tribe more quickness at the net when blocking opposing shots. It worked so well that Shaffer stuck with the change in the day’s latter match, and it seemed to open up additional opportunities for middle Meredith Hardy. The 6-foot-2 junior had four blocks and 14 kills against Ravenwood, and four blocks, 12 kills and three aces against Independence.
“Like Coach Shaffer always says, we’re on a mission this year,” Hardy said. “We just have to take care of business tomorrow and do what we know best.”
Jamie Rutledge finished with 70 total assists — 36 against Ravenwood and 34 against Independence. Lori Peterson had 34 digs in the Ravenwood match. Peterson and Katie Halvorsen combined for 40 digs in the Lady Indians’ final match of the day.
Ravenwood (51-3) worked its way out of the losers bracket with two straight wins and plays Independence (38-20) this morning at 11:30 at MTSU for the other spot in the state championship match.
Though the entire tournament has been played under double-elimination format, the finals are winner take all.
“I really don’t like that every team gets to lose once except the undefeated team,” Shaffer said. “That just seems ludicrous to me. But if you win and take care of business, it’s not going to be an issue.”