MURFREESBORO – Last season the Nolensville High School volleyball team entered the state tournament as the unknown newcomer and was almost overlooked by most.
This year, the Lady Knights are the favorite and they quickly proved why.
Nolensville, the defending Class AA champions, raced past Signal Mountain 25-8, 25-8, 25-17 to cruise into the second round and take another step toward defending their first state championship.
Senior Lauren Starcke said her and her teammates felt the pressure initially, but it didn’t really show to most Tuesday at Blackman High School – the host for the Class AA initial rounds. Nolensville’s state jitters subsided quickly as the Lady Knights built a steady lead after trading the first serval points with Signal Mountain. A somewhat methodically attack ensued and carried through the rest of the match.
“I think we do well under pressure actually,” said Starcke, who collected 11 digs. “I mean last year we lost this first match to Portland and had to battle back up and there was pressure the entire time, so I think this year we are kind of used to it.
“We came in ready. And this feels more like home ground.”
That’s not good news for the rest of Class AA field. The Lady Knights have one goal in mind and that’s another title.
“We’re a force to be reckoned with,” said junior Avery Young, who finished with nine kills and four digs for Nolensville.
“We’ve worked so hard to get here and we know what it takes,” senior Charley Fulton added. “It’s pretty surreal, but this just shows you that no matter where you come from, if you can come together, you can move forward and be awesome.”
All three Lady Knights played key roles last season in the state championship run for the young team, which returned everyone this season. This year, the Lady Knights boast five seniors including District 9-AA MVP Starcke and Region 5-AA MVP Fulton. Fellow seniors Caymin Ladd (4 kills, 2 blocks), Jazmyn Jenkins (5 blocks) and setter Avery Patton all had their moments Tuesday as well.
“Our five seniors do such a great job of leading us, and you know, it’s always extra nice when they’re some of the best players on the court at any given time as well,” Nolensville coach Brett Young said. “That’s an added bonus.”
After recording a 25-8 win in the first set, Nolensville scored the first six points of the second, capped by a Maggie Rickert slam from the left side. Rickert closed with six kills, while Fulton (11 kills) led the Lady Knights balanced attack.
“We’re not sneaking up on anybody anymore,” coach Young said. “I just think we got off to great start and it carried right on through. We were ultra solid across the board.”
The Lady Knights will play Crockett County at 12 p.m. Wednesday at Blackman. Crockett County defeated East Hamilton 20-25, 25-14, 25-15, 25-21.
MURFREESBORO – Battle Ground Academy senior Christine Jewell stepped off the volleyball cour…
Fulton said the Lady Knights will try to keep their storied season going and stay focused on their end goal: to repeat as champions.
“We know we can play well and when we do, nobody can really beat us,” the senior said. “We just need to keep our mindset that we had coming into today and really through the season that we can be the best.”
Anderson County and Murfreesboro Central Magnet will face off in the other winner’s bracket semifinal at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday. Anderson County defeated Greeneville 25-20, 25-20, 25-16, while Murfreesboro Central claimed a 25-23, 25-9, 25-12 win over Covington.
Watch for continued coverage of the state volleyball tournament online. The Brentwood girls advanced in Class AAA, while the Battle Ground Academy girls fell in straight sets in back-to-back matches Tuesday for an early exit from the Division II-A tournament.
MURFREESBORO – It was their stage, and they would command it.
2020 Class AA State Volleyball Tournament
All matches at Blackman High School
Anderson County def. Greeneville, 25-20, 25-20, 25-16
Murfreesboro Central vs. Covington, 25-23, 25-9, 25-12
Nolensville def. Signal Mountain, 25-8, 25-8, 25-17
Crocket County def. East Hamilton, 20-25, 25-14, 25-15, 25-21
9:30 a.m. – Anderson County (33-7) vs. Murfreesboro Central (29-11)
12 p.m. – Nolensville (35-4) vs. Crockett County (29-1)
2:30 p.m. – Greeneville (26-6) vs. Covington (13-5), loser out
5 p.m. – East Hamilton (17-12) vs. Signal Mountain (18-17), loser out