MURFREESBORO – If there’s one thing to take away from the opening day of the Class AAA State Volleyball Tournament, it may just be to never count out the Ravenwood girls.
The Lady Raptors stayed alive Tuesday, rallying to stun Cookeville in five sets – 27-25, 18-25, 25-16, 19-25, 20-18 – and leave those still in attendance at the Murphy Center on MTSU’s campus shaking their heads in disbelief.
The Ravenwood girls were finished. They were out of gas and on the brink of elimination trailing the Lady Dragons 13-6 in the fifth-and-deciding set, you know, the one played to 15. Somehow, they unified and stormed back to capture a 20-18 victory and advance to play Wednesday.
“We literally fought to the death,” Ravenwood senior Madison Bidwell said. “I mean, I don’t know how we did it, but we found a way.
"I’m just so incredibly proud of my team.”
The Lady Raptors, who fell in four sets against Dobyns Bennett early Tuesday, will face Collierville in another elimination match in the loser’s bracket Wednesday morning at 10 a.m. If Ravenwood can win three matches Wednesday, they can play for the state championship Thursday. It sounds far-fetched at best, but it’s something the Lady Raptors accomplished in their last trip to state in 2017.
“We’ve been here before,” West said earlier Tuesday.
Back to that final set, though. How did Ravenwood do it?
“These girls made a conscious decision to play for each other,” said West, who in a pair of timeouts late in the fifth had the girls figure out what to do. “I told them that this is their team and they didn’t need to hear from me at that point because it was all about belief.
“They needed to tell each other what we are a capable of. And that’s what we did.”
On the heels of a 25-19 win to force the fifth set, Cookeville carried the momentum over and scored the first four points in the tie-breaker. Bidwell pulled her team within 7-6 on a kill from the left side, but the Lady Dragons found a groove and rattled off the next six points to sit on the brink of clinching.
Sophomore Tanya Sichling bounced back from an error and fired an attack down the left side to make it 13-7 and trigger the wild finish. Cookeville hit into the net on the next point and then Kelsie Dawson made it 13-9 on a high hit from the middle. Senior setter Carly Cooper went right back to Dawson for another kill, this time from the middle, to make it 13-10. Cookeville suffered a setting error and Sichling pounded down another kill to pull Ravenwood within 13-12. Timeout Lady Dragons.
West sat back one more time in the break and watched her team feed off the energy discussing what to do next. They came out of the break even more fired up, but another Lady Raptor error produced match point.
Ravenwood turned to Bidwell who ended a long rally by slicing a hit down the right side to the feet of the line judge to make it 14-13. Dawson then emphatically ended the match’s longest volley from the middle, stretching and placing the ball just beyond the block. Freshman Bella Lepore, Bidwell and Cooper all made fantastic digs in the back-and-forth barrage before Dawson's finish.
MURFREESBORO – The Brentwood volleyball team will be the first to point out that it’s not ea…
The two teams traded hitting errors twice to make it 16-16. Then both teams had miscues at the service line – 17-17. Cookeville junior Mattie Arnett tipped over the Ravenwood block for an 18-17 edge, but Bidwell came right back for another kill and the Lady Dragons fell behind 19-18 on a hitting error. Cooper then flipped a ball to Bidwell in the back row and the senior sent the match-clinching hit past the block to complete the improbable comeback.
“We came together,” Bidwell said. “That's all we could do. We knew we had to give it our all and one of the things we do really well is play really well when we come together as a team.
"And we did."
Bidwell collected team-highs with 20 kills and 27 digs, but as she said, so many players came through in critical moments. Dawson added 14 kills and five blocks. Lepore dug up 22 balls and added nine assists and classmate Reaghan Larkin had several big blocks, while leading the team from the service line down the stretch. Cooper, who also celebrated her 18th birthday Tuesday, dished out 32 assists and had 14 digs and Sichling closed with eight kills and 17 digs.
“I’m just so proud of our team and what we did,” Bidwell said. “Our team did what we had to do and came together so well.”
2019 Class AAA State Volleyball Tournament
At MTSU’s Murphy Center Oct. 22-24
Dobyns Bennett def. Ravenwood, 3-1, first round
Houston def. Cookeville, 3-1, first round
Brentwood def. Daniel Boone, 3-0, first round
Collierville def. Cleveland, 3-1, first round
Dobyns Bennett def. Houston, 3-1, quarterfinal
Brentwood def. Collierville, 3-0, quarterfinal
Ravenwood def. Cookeville, 3-2, elimination
Cleveland def. Daniel Boone, 3-2, elimination
10 a.m. – Collierville vs. Ravenwood, elimination
11:30 a.m. – Houston vs. Cleveland, elimination
1 p.m. – Dobyns Bennett vs. Brentwood, 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
3 p.m. – State Championship