Jefferson County dealt top-seeded Morristown West a surprising straight-set loss Wednesday night to advance to the championship game of the District 2-AAA Volleyball Tournament and wrapped up a berth in next week’s region in the process.
The two teams had split five-set thrillers in the regular season, but the Lady Patriots notched the victory by dominating the final two sets after a comeback to win the first.
Jefferson County, which improved to 21-9 for the season, rallied from a 24-22 deficit to pull out a 27-25 victory in game one before taking a 25-18 win. The third set was never close with the Lady Patriots rolling to a 25-12 decision.
West will now face cross-town rival East tonight at 5 p.m. for a berth in the region and the right to play the Lady Patriots in the tourney championship match at 6:15 p.m. A Lady Patriots loss in that one would result in a deciding game on Friday.
East posted a 3-1 win over Cocke County in Wednesday’s other match.
Makayla Alvey smacked down eight kills to lead the Lady Patriots victory. She also scored three times on dinks and added a blocked shot. Sidney Keck added six kills and Harley Shumaker five.
Jefferson County served up 11 aces with Kristin Mutterspaugh getting four of them. Cami Mincey had two aces and often times found open spots to score when she flipped the ball back over the net instead of setting as the Lady Trojans were expecting.
Shumaker had three blocked shots and Keck added another.
The Lady Trojans had trouble hitting the ball all night as they had 14 attempted kills that were either hit into the net or out of bounds. They finished with 26 kills led by Kendall Mattison and Nina Hodges, with seven each and Taylor Simmons with five.
Jefferson County coach Torey Yocom was pleased with the way her team played.
“That was probably the best we’ve played this year and it was the biggest match of the season with a region spot on the line,” Yocum said. “We just didn’t have a lot of errors tonight.
“I thought we had a lot of energy both on the court and on the bench. We played smart volleyball tonight. We’re capable of playing really well because we have a great team and it’s really exciting for the girls to be where they are right now.”
Yocom said her team is excited about going to the region for the first time since 2014 and added, “But we’re not satisfied with that. We want to take home the hardware from this tournament.”
West coach Natalee Gruse said, “It was a tough one for us. I thought both teams came out with a lot of fire but we didn’t keep it up. We really made a lot of mistakes.
“With that happening, the people we can usually count on to get us going were not able to do that tonight,” she said. “I told the girls the bottom line is that we didn’t play well and we lost.”
Gruse added, “Now we have to learn from it, put it behind us and come out and play better volleyball tomorrow night. There will be a lot on the line so we have to play well.”
The first set on Tuesday was very close and exciting. There were 13 ties and eight lead changes in the game. From then on, it was all Lady Patriots as West was never even able to tie the score, let alone take the lead.
West was down 12-11 when Hodges put down a kill to knot the score. A hitting error and a kill by Simmons put the Lady Trojans up 14-12.
Shumaker had a kill for the winners, but Rebecca Noble had a kill and blocked a shot and Simmons banged another kill to give the Lady Trojans a four-point lead.
With the score at 19-15, the Lady Patriots reeled off seven straight points. Alvey had two kills, Keck had a kill and a block and Mutterspaugh served a pair of aces.
Hodges then knocked down a kill and Kendall Mattison served three aces as West went in front 24-22. But a serve in the net and an ace by Anne-Elizabeth Huffaker tied the score and another hitting error by the Lady Trojans put Jefferson in front.
Carly McKenna’s kill got West even but Alvey dinked a winner and then slammed a kill for the game-ending point.
West never recovered. The Lady Patriots scored the first five points of the second set and raced out to a six-point spread at 9-3. The Lady Trojans chipped away at the deficit and finally got it down to 19-16 on a kill by Simmons.
However, Mincey flipped in a winner, Mutterspaugh had an ace and Alvey scored on another dink and a kill as Jefferson regained control. The final two points came on kills by Alvey and Mincey.
The Lady Patriots grabbed a quick 9-1 lead in the third set and never looked back. West never got closer than seven and the lead reached double figures at 17-7 and was never less than nine after that.