Class AA State Volleyball Tournament

State Volleyball: Nolensville splashes onto big stage, moves one win away from title shot

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State Volleyball – Nolensville vs. Sullivan South, AA Quarterfinals .

The Nolensville girls, who are playing in the state volleyball tournament for the first time, will face Portland in Class AA state semifinal on Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2019 in Murfreesboro. 

See IMAGES for full photo gallery from the quarterfinal showdown against Sullivan South Tuesday. 

MURFREESBORO – The big stage wasn’t too much for a youthful Nolensville volleyball team Tuesday. In fact, the Lady Knights put the state on notice by winning two matches and advancing to the Class AA State Volleyball Tournament semifinals.

Nolensville claimed a five-set thriller over Sullivan South to move a win away from playing for the young Williamson County school’s first championship. The Lady Knights also defeated Livingston Academy in their state opener earlier in the day. A shot at two-time defending champion Portland on Wednesday awaits with championship berth up for grabs.

“This is just so exciting,” Nolensville junior Lauren Starcke said. “I mean we came here and a lot of people didn’t know the we are. I mean, we’re just a fourth-year school, but this is so fun to go out and show people what we can do.”

“It’s honestly crazy to even be here,” added teammate and fellow junior Charley Fulton. “But I feel like we deserve to be here. We’ve worked so hard to make it here and this whole season has led up to this.

“We’re ready to keep showing what we can do.”

Nolensville will face a Portland team that swept into the semis past Lexington and East Hamilton Tuesday. The Lady Panthers are 43-10 this season and are 13-2 in the state tournament.

The winner’s bracket semifinal will be played at 1 p.m. at Blackman High School.

“No one knows what to expect, so we’re just going to come in and worry about us,” said Fulton, who teamed up with Starcke to anchor the Nolensville defense against Sullivan South. Starcke scooped up 34 digs and Fulton added 26 more.

Sophomore Avery Young collected 17 kills, while both junior Jazmyn Jenkins and freshman Maggie Rickert had 13 kills apiece. Jenkins added four big blocks along with junior Caymin Ladd, who had 11 kills as well.

“You get to this point of the season, and well, to steal from basketball a bit, it’s survive and advance,” Lady Knights coach Brett Young said. “It doesn’t have to be the prettiest, and trust me, we had stretches tonight where it didn’t look like Nolensville volleyball to me, but these girls just don’t like to lose and they take a lot of pride in our program.

“They take a lot of pride in what we’re building here. They just refused to lose that match tonight.”

The Lady Knights (39-7) outlasted Sullivan South 25-20, 16-25, 25-20, 22-25, 15-11 in a see-saw match loaded with momentum swings, huge defensive plays and bruising attacks.

Young capped the wild match with a kill from the left side that sent her team and fans into a brief frenzy. Rickert broke a 10-10 prior with a swing from the right side and after a Lady Rebels (27-15) hitting error, Ladd smashed a kill down the middle for a 13-10 edge that didn’t let up.

Nolensville battled back from a seven-point deficit in the fourth set to threaten late. Jenkins and Rickert led the charge as the Lady Knights turned a 20-13 hole into a slim 22-21 deficit after a solo Jenkins block in the middle. The two teams traded hitting errors before senior Abbey Jayne sent a kill off the Nolensville block to keep Sullivan South alive.

“Well, you know that was Sullivan South’s 31st state tournament appearance today,” coach Young said. “Obviously, it's our first time and I thought at times you could see that, but you know we talked in the huddle before going out in that fifth set, we said it’s all about who the tougher team is now.

“They willed themselves to 15 first. I’m just so proud.”

Junior setter Avery Patton had 33 assists in the match, while freshman setter Caoline Johnston came in for 18 assists and five timely kills. Maymie Guthrie added 19 digs for the Lady Knights.

Nolensville made their state tournament debut with a 25-17, 25-20, 25-14 win over Livingston Academy (26-10) earlier Tuesday.

Jenkins led a balanced Nolensville attack with 10 kills against Livingston Academy. Young added nine kills and Fulton tallied seven kills and four aces in the victory.

In a game of runs, Nolensville opened with a 7-1 lead in the second set, but the Lady Wildcats responded with a 13-1 run to take control 14-8. Nolensville regained a groove and pulled even at 17-17 on a Livingston Academy hitting error, but the Lady Wildcats used back-to-back kills from lengthy freshman middle Aleah Melton to retake a lead at 19-17.

It wasn't until Ladd pounded home a kill from the middle for a 21-20 edge that the Lady Knights took the lead for good. Two Lady Wildcat hitting errors followed and Guthrie fired in two aces to clinch the set.

Livingston Academy closed within 15-11 midway through the third set, but never got closer as the Lady Knights closed on a 10-3 run.

Young told his girls to get some rest and be ready for another veteran team after the late match.

“Portland is a confident group. They won the last two titles and are right where they expected to be,” he said. “We have to do what we do best, which is play really solid, hard-nosed volleyball.

“I’m just hoping the Nolensville kids take that field trip tomorrow and cheer us on because we are one match away from getting to play for a state championship, which is pretty special.”

2019 Class AA State Volleyball Tournament

At MTSU and Blackman High School Oct. 22-24

Tuesday Results

Portland def. Lexington, 3-0, first round

East Hamilton def. Anderson County, 3-2, first round

Sullivan South def. Crockett County, 3-0, first round

Nolensville def. Livingston Academy, 3-0, first round

Portland def. East Hamilton, 3-0, quarterfinal

Nolensville def. Sullivan South, 3-2, quarterfinal

Anderson County def. Lexington, 3-0, elimination

Crockett County def. Livingston Academy, 3-0, elimination

Wednesday

10 a.m. – Sullivan South vs. Anderson County, elimination

11:30 a.m. – East Hamilton vs. Crockett County, elimination

1 p.m. – Nolensville vs. Portland, semifinal

2:30 p.m. – 10 a.m. winner vs. 11:30 a.m. winner, elimination

4:30 p.m. – 2:30 p.m. winner vs. 1 p.m. loser, elimination

Thursday

1:30 p.m. – State Championship

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