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High School Volleyball

State Volleyball: BGA advances to championship semifinal

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State Volleyball – Battle Ground Academy vs. Northpoint Christian

Gillian Baisden, Kyra Hampson, Bella Rye and Abby Robertson 

MURFREESBORO – The Mack Hatcher Mob invaded Murfreesboro on Tuesday and the Battle Ground Academy volleyball team didn’t disappoint their rowdy supporters.

The Lady Wildcats overcame a slow start to advance to the Division II-A championship semifinal after a 26-24, 22-25, 25-11, 25-23 win over Northpoint Christian. Several buses of students packed behind the BGA bench in support of the volleyball team. 

“Yeah, it was definitely nerve-racking, but I think once we settled in, we were able to show what we could do,” said junior Mac Huntington, who paced BGA with a match-high 18 kills. "We've been training for this all season and if we can keep winning like this, it would be just the best feeling in the world.”

The Lady Wildcats improved to 29-2 overall and are eying the program’s first state title. They face Notre Dame on Wednesday morning at Middle Tennessee Christian School – host of the DII-A tournament – at 9:30 a.m. The Irish played a part in sending BGA home early last season in the Lady Wildcats first trip back to the final four since 2012.

“They have excellent ball control, really good hitters in the middle and outside, so yeah, it will be a challenge, but we will prepare the best we can,” BGA coach Tatiana Alvarez said of Notre Dame, four-set winners over Concord Christian in the early match Tuesday. “I love that we are seeing them again.”

It seemed the Lady Wildcats were off to the same start they endured last season on the state stage, falling behind by as many as seven in both the first two games. They trailed 20-13 in the first set on a kill from the back row by Hassie Clare Thurman, a freshman hitter for the Lady Trojans who finished with a dozen kills and a team-best 21 digs. 

But BGA did what they have done all season, and regrouped while trailing by scoring the next six points as the student section roared with each point, adding to the surge of momentum.

“I think we all just kind of snapped out of it and said, ‘We are not going to lose this,’” Lady Wildcat senior Abby Robertson said. “I know I was nervous, but after we started getting in the flow by coming together, it just showed how resilient we can be.”

Robertson’s kill from the left side pulled BGA within 20-17 and forced a Northpoint Christian timeout. Two errors from the Lady Trojans followed before Maycee Gross got a ball to drop inside the BGA line with a soft tip over the block. A Lady Wildcat hitting error pushed the Northpoint Christian lead to 22-19, but BGA scored the next three to tie the set with Gillian Baisden’s slam from the middle providing an exclamation point.

Both teams traded points before Bella Rye smacked a kill from the right and Baisden and Kyra Hampton teamed up for the game-clinching block. Baisden added nine kills on a team-high .364 hitting to go with three blocks in the match, while Hampton set 35 assists and tacked on 11 digs, two aces and two blocks. Rye added 11 kills.

BGA started slow again in the second set and rallied only to fall short 25-22. The Lady Wildcats cruised in the third set paced by Huntington’s seven kills. The junior scored three of the final four points and sandwiched a pair of kills around an Izzy Northam ace to clinch the game.

Huntington said Northam, who had a match-high 27 digs, gave her a bit of pep talk early on during a timeout in the fist set and the two found their groove as the match went on.

Maybe it was their matching hair style, too?

“Bubble braids might have helped,” she said with a smile. “We just knew we had to play our game and we did.”

The two teams traded blows in the fourth set, before BGA gained some separation late, including a Robertson kill to push their advantage to 23-19. The next four points went to Northpoint Christian before a Lady Trojan hitting error and Baisden skying kill from the middle closed the match.

Notre Dame defeated Concord Christian 21-25, 25-17, 25-20, 25-23 in the early match Tuesday. They topped BGA in four sets in the last meeting during the 2020 state opener.

Concord Christian stayed alive in consolation play in the four-team double-elimination tournament with a 25-23, 20-25, 25-18, 25-10 win over Northpoint Christian later in the afternoon. They will face the loser of Wednesday’s championship semifinal at noon on the second day of the tournament. 

A win Wednesday morning would push BGA into their first ever state final.

“It’s just so nice to see hard work come to fruition,” Alvarez said. “And yet, we were in that final huddle and saying, ‘OK, but we’re not done.’”

Battle Ground Academy def. Northpoint Christian, 3-1, Division II-A Final Four 

26-24, 22-25, 25-11, 25-23

Kills – BGA 48 (Mac Huntington 18, Bella Rye 11, Gillian Baisden 9, Abby Robertson 8; NP 35 (H. Thurman 12, Quinn Thurman 7, B. Cherry 6). Aces – BGA 7 (Bella Rye 3, Julianna Santiago 3); NP 6 (Sailor Cole 2, Sophie Bauer 2). Assists – BGA 39 (Kyra Hampton 35); NP 23 (Sophie Bauer 20). Digs – BGA 86 (Izzy Northam 27, Julianna Santiago 17, Abby Robertson 13, Kyra Hampton 11); NP 88 (H. Thurman 21, Sohie Bauer 17, Quinn Thurman 17, Sailor Cole 15). Blocks – BGA 11 (Gillian Baisden 3, Bella Rye 2, Campbell Dobbs 2, Kyra Hampton 2); NP 9 (B. Cherry 5, Maycee Gross 2).

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