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South storms back, shocks D-B in five sets

By JOHNNY WILSON, Sports Correspondent • Sep 16, 2019 at 11:45 PM

KINGSPORT — A funny thing happened Monday night on Dobyns-Bennett’s way to a seemingly certain volleyball sweep of Sullivan South.

The homestanding Lady Rebels abruptly turned the tables and produced a remarkable victory.

Down and virtually out after dropping the first two sets in convincing fashion, Class AA South somehow rallied to claim a stunning 12-25, 17-25, 25-21, 25-22, 15-13 nonconference victory against the mighty Lady Indians of Class AAA.

First-year D-B coach Haley Price, a former player at Virginia Tech who starred on Sullivan South’s 2013 AA state championship team under longtime Rebels mentor Wendy Ratliff, knew better than to be shocked.

“Being a Rebel at heart, I understand how that works,” Price said. “One of the great things about volleyball at Sullivan South is that you can always count on their girls to show fight to the last point, just like they did tonight.

“We are fighting through injury and that’s not an excuse, but my girls must step up and play when No. 13 (Hannah Watson) is out, and tonight we didn’t.”

Ratliff has seen about everything in her 20-plus years at South.

“Honestly, about anybody you play in this area, it’s almost always going to be a tough match and you really can’t afford to give up momentum to anyone,” she said. “Tonight we just kind of picked up on it and got rolling, and sometimes it’s hard to change that momentum.”

STAYING ALIVE

D-B built its comfortable two-set lead behind strong net play from Staley Humphries, Sarah Moore and Meg Maynor, but South would not fold.

The pesky Lady Rebels stayed alive by breaking free of a 19-19 tie to win the third set, then behind the strong service work of Allie Jordan ran out to an 8-0 advantage to start the Game 4, never surrendering the lead.

The Lady Rebels received clutch moments from a number of players, particularly the identical 17-dig efforts of Jordan, Abbey Jayne and Molly Williams. In addition, McKenzie Littleton produced 15 digs.

Offensively, Jayne (12 kills) and Katie Watson (14 kills) were money, often taking advantage of nice leaves by Littleton, who finished with 17 assists.

“It was a great team win,” Ratliff said. “I’m very proud of the girls.”

THE DECISIVE SET

South (12-11) fought back again in the fifth set, recovering from 3-0 and 6-1 deficits behind the bold play of Jayne, a senior who’ll play at King University next fall.

The Lady Rebels eventually caught the Tribe at 9 apiece, and the teams were tied at 10, 12 and 13 before a slick, two-handed push shot by the clutch Suzie Chatman produced match point for the home team.

Leading 14-13, the Lady Rebels wrapped up the win on an unforced error by the Lady Indians.

Ratliff, whose squad was swept by D-B just last week, didn’t want to make too big of a deal over beating her program’s longtime rivals.

“Historically speaking, yeah, we’ve beaten them plenty of times,” Ratliff said. “But as for this team, this is big. This is a definite improvement.”

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