Jason Keeble was worried about having enjoyed too much success this season as his Heritage volleyball team entered tournament action after sailing undefeated through regular season District 3-AAA play.
The Lady Mountaineers earned an opening-day bye before facing Maryville — a team it had beaten in three previous matches — in Tuesday evening action on the Maryville volleyball courts.
“Having to get a sweep against a cross-town rival is hard,” Keeble told The Daily Times. “We are a young team, and it scared me. A lot of times young teams don’t know any better and think ‘Hey, we’re supposed to beat them.’ I really stressed to them in practice that it was going to be a grind, it wasn’t going to be easy.”
Keeble’s concern was well-founded. Although mostly trailing in all three games, Maryville never let Heritage open much space before the Lady Mountaineers finally prevailed, 25-23, 25-20, 25-16.
The two teams played neck-and-neck the first two games.
In the opener, Maryville took a 5-4 lead by taking advantage of three unforced errors. Heritage then went on a 9-1 run behind strong service turns from Kelsey Woods and Ashelyn Vandergriff to pull ahead 13-6.
Maryville crept back slowly to trail by one, 24-23, after two kills each from Kylie Hopkins and Miranda Wyatt, but a final attempt sailed out-of-bounds to give the Lady Mountaineers a 25-23 win.
The second game saw the two foes trading leads early. Neither pulled ahead by more than two points. Tied at 16-16, Heritage took the ultimate lead with help from a bad Rebel serve and a net violation paired with a nice tip to the back line from Tennessee pledge Kailey Keeble.
Emma Whitehead’s kill took Heritage to game point. The junior served the final point, which saw Vandergriff’s shot glancing off Lady Rebel hands and out of play for the 25-20 win.
The final game was the only Heritage runaway. Maryville started strong with two kills from Meg Mersman and one from Hopkins, but Heritage then went on a 9-0 tear behind the service of Whitehead.
Keeble and sophomore Zephanie Snyder had kills in the run, which was aided by three Maryville shot attempts going long.
Mersman and Hopkins both had kills for the Lady Rebels to stop that streak but kills from Keebe (14 kills) and Snyder (nine kills) pushed Heritage to the 25-16 win.
Keeble, one of two Heritage seniors, added 14 digs and 18 assists. Whitehead matched Keeble’s 14 digs, with Lexi Patty adding 12 and Vandergriff finishing with 10.
Snyder garnered several key points and credited a strong team effort.
“It’s great being able to just trust everyone,” she said. “I know my setters are going to get it here so it’s just up to me to put it away.”
“Our serve receive was off,” Maryville coach Angel Babelay said. “We couldn’t come out of that, and when that and your passing are off, it’s hard to run an offense. Heritage always moves the ball around well and we didn’t stay consistent in picking those balls up.”
Maryville was led by 10 kills and three blocks from Mersman and eight kills and two blocks from Hopkins. Mackenzie Shirley recorded 32 of the 33 Maryville assists.
The double-elimination tournament moves to Farragut Wednesday and Thursday. Farragut edged Hardin Valley to stay in the winner’s bracket. Heritage will face the Lady Admirals today at 7:00 p.m.
Maryville drops to the loser’s bracket at 5:30 p.m. to face Lenoir City, which stayed alive with a straight-set elimination win over South-Doyle. William Blount will face Hardin Valley in another elimination match at 5:30 p.m.