Franklin’s Lady Rebels entered Thursday’s do-or-die match with Knoxville Farragut like a lamb but roared back like a lion before being eliminated 25-13, 25-17, 27-25 in their first trip to the state tournament since 2004.
“If you had told these girls at the beginning of the year that they were going to end up in the state tournament, they might not have believed you,” said second-year head coach Amber Holzer. “But they put in the work and they put in the time and they deserved to be here and I’m really proud of them.”
Franklin looked a bit sluggish and tired early, playing little offense and depending on their defense. A good portion of that attack could have been a holdover from Wednesday.
Franklin was the first match of the tournament, a 9:30 a.m., meeting with Knoxville Bearden Wednesday morning. A loss there sent the Lady Rebels to a 6:30 p.m. matchup with Memphis White Station nearly eight hours later. But an unexpected power failure at Middle Tennessee State University’s Murphy Center obliterated the entire afternoon and evening schedule and forced venue changes across Murfreesboro for the five classes.
Franklin beat White Station in a five-set marathon just after 11 p.m. at MTSU’s Alumni Memorial Gym to advance Thursday’s contest.
The Lady Rebels put little fight in the first two sets Thursday, falling 25-13 and 25-17, but took an early lead in the third set as Zoe Aebie and Maddie McGaha helped lead the way. But the leader all day for Franklin was Breanna Carlton.
Franklin’s momentum seemed to wane just a bit after a spectacular two-and-a-half minute volley between the two teams midway in the third game. Both sides refused to give up, keeping the ball in play from 15 feet or more past the end line; one save was literally a ball bouncing off the face of a defender. The play of the tournament came in that volley when Carlton dove head-first into the front of the scorer’s table, pushing table and scorers backward nearly six feet, to make a save.
“(Breanna) would never tell anyone, but she was in an immense amount of pain this entire week. She’s recovering from an injury in her club season and she’ll still run through a wall for you," Holzer said. “She doesn’t even tell me, but I can see it. I’m so proud of her for pushing through and leading this team like she does.”
Despite the early exit, Holzer sees the week as a great building opportunity.
“We want to go forward from here," she said. "Next season we can be back at the state tournament again. The fact that these girls have now seen this level of volleyball and know what it takes to get here is extremely important.”