A commanding lead was slipping away, and all Maryville volleyball coach Angel Babelay could think was, “Oh no, not this again.”
Time and time again this season the Lady Rebels have let their mistakes snowball and not been able to get out of the rut before their opponent made a significant run.
Luckily for Babelay, Maryville corrected that issue in one of its biggest spots to date.
The Lady Rebels held on to win the critical third set and then led from start to finish in the finale to defeat visiting Heritage 23-25, 27-25, 25-21, 22-25, 15-12 in District 3-AAA action Tuesday night.
The victory came one night after Heritage (13-8, 2-1) got the best of Maryville (15-5, 2-1) in a best-of-three match during the Blount County Championships. Lady Rebels senior middle blocker Meg Mersman said that was on their minds in key moments Tuesday.
“Today was our redemption day,” said Mersman, who had 20 kills, five blocks and two aces. “It was our time to get back at them. That mentality of knowing they got those little bit of points on us really kicked in and kicked us in our butts and told us, ‘We’re down again. We need to get going and win this set.’”
With the help of three consecutive aces by Kylie Hopkins, Maryville looked like it was running away with the third set once it took a 17-11 lead. Heritage didn’t go away and fought all the way back to a tie at 20-20.
That’s when the Lady Rebels turned it around with the help of some Heritage errors. Mersman had an ace for 22-20, and Hopkins had one of her 11 kills for 24-21.
“There have been times we had that lead and we let the team back in and we haven’t been able to finish that set,” Babelay said. “That was good for us tonight to do that and battle it out.”
The Lady Rebels led the fourth game 10-5 but did let Heritage get over the hump. The Lady Mountaineers tied it at 18-18 and then won the next five points with the help of a Kaitlyn Wilkerson block, two Emma Whitehead aces and a Zephanie Snyder kill.
Maryville did not allow that to happen in the decisive game. The Lady Rebels built a 10-4 lead, and though Heritage rallied to get back to 14-12, they put it away on a kill by Grace Akard after a quick set from Delaney White on the right side of the net.
Several players on both teams piled up the statistics. For Maryville, Miranda Wyatt had 27 assists and 19 digs; White had 14 assists and 14 digs; Hopkins had 11 kills and 26 digs; and libero Keely Mclain had 37 digs.
Heritage got strong all-around efforts from Whitehead (12 kills and 24 digs), Snyder (11 kills and 25 digs) and Kaitlyn Wilkerson (34 assists, 15 digs and three blocks). Libero Lexi Patty had 27 digs.
The Lady Mountaineers struggled over key stretches with defense and serve receive. Coach Jason Keeble said they had the looks they wanted several times in the fifth game but got out of position. Noting that it’s an area he needs to coach better, he said he knows what needs to be done in practice and that they’ll do that so that the next time they play Maryville the result can be reversed.
In a district as tight as theirs with the top five teams on a level playing field, it’s most important that they get it right in the postseason.
“Throw seeding out the window,” Keeble said. “Seeding will help because the first two teams get that bye, so you can rest a game. Other than that you’re going to have to show up at tournament time. If we’re fifth in the district we can still win the thing. I told them to keep their heads up and we’ll get back to work tomorrow.”