Coming back from a 1-0 deficit, the Nolensville Lady Knights volleyball team (37-3) won 3-1 over the Ravenwood Lady Raptors (23-13) at home on Tuesday night (22-25, 25-22, 27-25, 25-23).
“It is really exciting,” said Nolensville junior Maggie Rickert. “Going into AAA, we were kind of the underdogs. Making it this far is not something that everyone expected, but we worked very hard for it.”
“I think we just need to clean up the little things,” said Ravenwood senior Kennedy Riggs. “That is what got to us and started to add up, but we will learn from it.”
“It is so fun right now,” said Nolensville freshman Kaira Knox. “We have a lot of momentum going into substate, and that is just going to fuel us.“
Nolensville made it to the region final with a four-set win over Independence earlier in the afternoon (27-25, 25-22, 24-26, and 25-16).
Kill leaders for Nolensville in that first game were Kaira Knox with 17 and Avery Young with 12.
Independence's leaders in kills were Jessica Perry with 14 and Ally Greenwell with 8.
Ravenwood advanced to the final on a three-set sweep over Page 25-23, 25-19, and 25-16.
The Raptors' kill leaders in the semis were Tanya Sichling with 16 and Reghan Larkin with five.
Page's kill leaders were Tennyson Gorman with nine and Kate Horn with six.
Nolensville and Ravenwood would meet again after playing each other in the district finals, where NHS won.
In the first set of the region finals, the Lady Raptors started out strong with timely kills, blocks and aces by seniors Tanya Sichling, Kennedy Riggs, Ellie Kimpel and Reghan Grimes and junior Reghan Larkin to take the frame 25-22.
“We came out playing like we had nothing to lose,” said Riggs. “We put everything out on the court, which I believe gave us the first set.”
Nolensville battled back in the second set by tallying kills, blocks and aces from freshman Kaira Knox, senior Avery Young, junior Maggie Rickert, sophomore Maggie Alred, sophomore Bella Martin, and junior Madeline Mcneely to win 25-22 tying the match at 1.
The Lady Knights swapped points with Ravenwood in the third set, but kills by Rickert and Knox resulted in Nolensville pulling out the win 27-25 and going up 2-1.
In the fourth set, the Lady Knights executed a balanced offensive and defensive attack with plays by Rickert, Knox, Young, senior Maymie Gutherie, junior Ellie Tant, junior Peyton Neal and Alred to power through and win the frame 25-23, taking the region championship 3-1 over Ravenwood.
With this win, Nolensville has only lost two sets in their region and district playoff run.
“We want to be as close to perfect as we can,” said Nolensville head coach Brett Young. “I thought tonight was a good example of our team battling through some rough spots. We made some uncharacteristic errors tonight and were still able to win a region title. You have to give credit to Independence and Ravenwood for doing that to us.”
“We have been able to get on runs, because we have practiced being down and having to come back,” said Knox. “It takes a lot of energy and grit. We just go for everything.”
“We have such great talent all across the court,” said Rickert. “We all work really well together.”
Ravenwood’s kill leaders were Grimes with 14 and Sichling with 11.
The Lady Knights leaders in kills were Rickert with 21 and Knox with 13.
“Night in and night out Maggie (Rickert) is going to get a lot of balls for us,” said Coach Young. “That is a lot of pressure sometimes. I was really proud of Maggie in the second match. She came back strong against Ravenwood. Kaira (Knox) does things that most freshman can’t do from an athletic and a volleyball IQ standpoint. I am so proud what she has been able to do for us. It is a great advantage for our setters to use both sides (of the court) when you have Kaira on the opposite pen.”
“As we go up to hit, we just look for the holes,” said Knox. “If there is a hole we trust ourselves and our training to go up and hit that spot. We also have great setters.”
“Our defense helps us out, because they tell us where to put the shots,” said Rickert.
In their first year of AAA volleyball competition, Nolensville has collected both the district and region titles.
“I think this is really special,” said Coach Young. “It is such a tough county for volleyball. It speaks volumes about our program and our kids. To come into this district and region and be the 2021 champions will be something I think about in a few weeks. Now it gives us an opportunity to play Thursday.”
Ravenwood will travel to Station Camp on Thursday night for the sectional round.
“I hope for us to execute in all aspects of the court,” said Riggs. “We only get one chance, so we have got to give it everything. We need to execute blocking and hitting especially.”
Nolensville will host Hillsboro at home Thursday night, a team the Knights have topped twice this season.
“It means you are one win away from getting to play in the state tournament,” said Coach Young. “We don’t want to ever take it for granted, no matter how many times we get to go. Hillsboro is a team we know and have faced twice this season. They are very well coached and athletic. They will be ready to play, and I expect our kids to play well.”
“Hillsboro is a good team,” said Rickert. “I do not think they should be overlooked. I hope we can bring our A-game on Thursday.”