But while the program is returning, it is essentially a new team as junior libero Sydney Murrell is the only returnee from the rotation which made the Lady Purple Tigers’ first trip to state a year ago.
“But they were here, they watched, they got to see it and now they get to take it for themselves,” Watertown coach Brandy Holcomb said after her Lady Tigers improved to 28-2. “I told our principal (Jeff Luttrell) the other day we’re young. We’re real young. We have one senior (Ashlyn Neal) playing tonight, I hope they don’t think this is automatic. I hope they know how hard they have to work to get here.
“We’ve been preparing for this since March and it was a goal of ours. And we talk about it so it can become a reality and not a dream. It’s a good feeling. They definitely had to work for it, and that makes it sweeter when you have to work for it - stressful, but sweeter.”
Columbia Academy forced Watertown to work in this one, leading 24-17 in Game 1 before the Lady Tiger reeled off a run of points to prevail 28-26. Watertown dominated Game 2 25-14 before the Lady Bulldogs controlled most of Game 3. But WHS rallied to force match point before CA stayed alive with a 27-25 triumph.
The Lady Bulldogs led Game 4 9-3. Watertown caught Columbia Academy 14-14 and took its first lead 16-15 before finally prevailing 25-22.
“They came to beat us for sure,” Holcomb said of the Lady Bulldogs. “They’re a good team. They serve well.”
Holcomb doesn’t call timeout every time her team gets in a jam. But she did with the Lady Tigers on the verge of a Game 1 loss.
“I told them to check themselves,” she said. “Something we talked about all year was ‘every game we play has got to be the best game we play, and if we do that, we don’t change how we prepare, we don’t have to change how we work. We just play the way we played all year… Play your game’. And then they did.
“We had a server who made a couple of mistakes early in (Game 4) and I said ‘don’t worry about what you’ve done, worry about what you’re going to do right now,’ and she got four big points for us off the line right them.”
Neal had Watertown’s only two solo blocks and assisted Brookelyn Davis on the Lady Tigers’ third block.
“While we didn’t have as many blocks as we usually do, we made up for it with kills,” Holcomb wrote in an email after recording the night’s statistics via video.
Outside hitter Natalie Fountain pounded 24 of Watertown’s 58 kills while Davis spiked 15, Mikayla Nix eight, Brittni Allison seven, Neal three and Murrell one.
Murrell also had a season-high 43 digs while Fountain finished with 21, Faith Pulley 19, Davis 6, Mackailyn Cherry 15, Nix five and Allison two.
Murrell served up three of Watertown’s seven aces while Davis, Fountain, Allison and Pulley each picked up one.
According to the TSSAA website, the entire Class A tournament will be played at Middle Tennessee State’s Murphy Center beginning with first-round matches at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday. Watertown will play in the first match of the tournametn against Gatlinburg-Pittman (16-9). The winner will return for semifinal action at 3:30 p.m. before the loser comes back at 6:30 with Hickman County (28-6) and Halls (20-13) the opposition. The championship match will be at noon next Thursday.
In the other bracket are Memphis East (17-1), defending state runner-up South Greene (26-12), 36-6 Sale Creek (which split a pair of matches with the Lady Tigers in a late-season weekend tournament at WHS) and Loretto.
Lebanon goes down swinging at Brentwood
BRENTWOOD — Facing five-time state champion Brentwood in a Class AAA sectional Thursday night, Lebanon put up a battle before the Lady Bruins punched their 26th ticket to state with a 25-23, 25-19, 23-25, 25-15 victory.
The Lady Devils led for much of the first game before Brentwood, with 13 state championships since 1998, prevailed to improve to 41-3, ending Lebanon’s season at 22-3.
Lebanon reached this mark by sweeping Beech in the Region 5-AAA semifinals Tuesday 25-8, 25-18, 25-14 before falling in the final to host Station Camp 28-26, 25-19, 29-31, 11-25, 15-11.
Friendship falls in first round of D-II state
CHATTANOOGA — Friendship Christian’s run through the Division II-A tournaments ended with a first round of state loss at Chattanooga Christian 25-16, 25-17, 26-24, 28-26 Wednesday night.
The Lady Commanders claimed third place in the Middle Region tournament Tuesday with a 25-21, 25-15, 25-20 sweep of Battle Ground Academy at Goodpasture. Earlier, Friendship fell to Middle Tennessee Christian 26-24, 25-21, 25-2, 18-25, 15-13 in the region first round.
Friendship advanced with a region first round 3-1 win over visiting Franklin Road Academy at the Bay Family Sportsplex on Monday.
FCS finished second in the District 4-A tournament with a 25-22, 17-25, 15-25, 25-16, 15-12 loss to top-seeded Goodpasture last week at Donelson Christian.