KNOXVILLE — Alcoa volleyball coach Sam Thomas wasn’t exactly pleased with his team’s performance at Tuesday night’s District 3-2A tournament at Knox Central High School.
“Our communication on the floor was not very good,” Thomas said. “I expected us to come out and execute better. I really thought we’d perform better.”
The good news is the Lady Tornadoes will have a chance to rectify those mistakes Tuesday in the regional tournament.
Alcoa split two matches Tuesday to place second and keep its s eams in the district tournament advance to the regional round.
The No. 2 seed Lady Tornadoes defeated No. 3 Carter 25-22, 25-15, 17-25, 25-23 in the semifinals before falling to No. 1 Knoxville Catholic 25-15, 25-13, 25-11 in the final.
“They kind of set the bar for where you have to compete and the level you have to be at,” Thomas said of Catholic. “We came out a little intimidated.”
Catholic (20-8) proved too much for the Lady Tornadoes to handle, with outside hitter Olivia Cunningham sparking the reigning Class AA state runner-up to the district championship.
Gracie Teeter led the Lady Tornadoes (17-18) with seven kills and seven digs while Bree Shoemaker and Cierra Hudson contributed eight digs apiece against the Fighting Irish.
“Honestly, we came in just not thinking we were going to get beat, and that’s not the best way to come into the game,” said Teeter, who was named the district’s Offensive Player of the Year. “We always have points where we’re not coming together as a team, but when we do, it’s awesome.”
The first set against Carter was back-and-forth. Despite Alcoa’s 25-22 win, Thomas said it was at that point he started to worry about the mistakes he was seeing on the court — specifically with Alcoa’s serving. The Lady Tornadoes had 17 serving errors against Carter and 12 against Catholic.
“My biggest concern out of the gate was the number of errors we made in that first set,” Thomas said. “We really didn’t clean that up all night, and we expended a lot of energy in that match with Carter, going into four sets.”
The Hornets struggled more in the second set. They came out flat, allowing Alcoa to jump out to a 20-8 lead while Teeter repeatedly placed the ball out of their reach.
Teeter led Alcoa in with 13 kills and 22 digs against Carter.
Carter stuck around for a bit, scoring four straight points behind Ava Brooks’ serving, but the hole the Hornets had dug themselves into was too deep. They fell 10 points shy of tying it.
“All we were really worried about was the Carter game,” Teeter said. “This is a good team. I think we could make it really far.”
Carter came alive in the third set. With Briel Norman serving, the Hornets jumped out to a 6-0 start before an Abbey Hitson kill snapped the run. Miscommunication plagued the Lady Tornadoes throughout the set, and they couldn’t recover from their slow start en route to a 25-17 loss.
“That one set on us really brought us down for a second,” Teeter said. “Then we just thought, ‘We’ve got to keep thinking positive.’”
Carter and Alcoa appeared evenly matched again in the fourth set, but Caleigh Carruthers’ composure was the difference-maker. Leading 24-23, the Alcoa freshman got her serve in, allowing the Lady Tornadoes to win the match.
Carruthers had 12 kills and three digs against Carter.
“She stepped up big time tonight and made her presence known on the court,” Thomas said. “We’ll go back, start practicing and trying to clean up some areas we need to work on. Hopefully we come out Tuesday and perform and lot better than we did tonight.”