In a fierce clash of Williamson County’s best, the Nolensville Knights (43-4) volleyball team swept the Ravenwood Raptors (26-14), 25-14, 25-19, 25-21, to win the AAA state championship trophy Friday night at Siegel High School in Murfreesboro.
Nolensville has now tallied three straight titles in two different divisions.
“It feels so good,” said Nolensville head coach Brett Young. “I am happy for the girls. They put so much work in. It is a special group of kids that took the challenge of stepping into AAA, competing in what I believe is the toughest district in the state, and never blink. Super proud of the way we played all year.”
“I feel like this means a lot to us because not only did we win it three times in a row, but we are in a new division,” said Nolensville freshman Kaira Knox. “I am so happy for our team.”
“It is wild,” said Nolensville senior Avery Young. “You know sometimes you can’t even put words to it because it was such a battle doing it in AA for two years. Then to turn around and come do it in AAA, just speaks so many unspoken things about this team and how much we can accomplish.”
“This is still an accomplishment for our program,” said Ravenwood head coach Abbey West. “For this team to be where they are, and no, it is not what they came here today to get. It (state finals) is not to be overlooked.”
In the first set, Nolensville started out strong with kills, aces and blocks by junior Ellie Tant, freshman Kaira Knox, sophomore Maggie Allred, senior Avery Young, Madeline Mcneely and junior Maggie Rickert to take the frame 25-14.
The Lady Knights continued to find their groove in all three phrases with monster plays by Tant, Knox, senior Maymie Gutherie, Mcneely, Rickert, senior Caroline Johnston and Allred to take a 2-0 lead with a 25-19 win in the second set.
Ravenwood battled with kills by senior Reghan Grimes, junior Reghan Larkin and senior Tanya Sichling, but senior Avery Young, freshman Kaira Knox and junior Maggie Rickert held tight and preserved the 3-0 sweep for Nolensville with a third set win 25-21.
“We just took it point by point,” said Nolensville junior Maggie Rickert. “We did not get ahead of ourselves. We came in knowing that they were going to put up a good fight.”
“Our student section really helped us,” said Knox. “We knew we could beat them if we just played all out the first set.”
“We talked about our past Ravenwood matches,” said Avery Young. “I think we played them five times before this and came out beating them four of the five times. It is never certain. We came in this match ultra-prepared. There would be no guarantees.”
“They just came out with a purpose today and had their mind made up that they were going to win this thing,” said Coach Young. “The emotions we took from our crowd really drove us. Physically we were tired, but we never let ourselves use that as an excuse.”
Ravenwood’s kill leaders were Sichling with 11 and Avery LePore with seven.
“Those were two kids that are really smart and were just trying to find every angle,” said Coach West. “Nolensville is a pretty good blocking team. I just think Tanya (Sichling) did a good job of finding her way around.”
The Lady Knights kill leaders were Knox with 13 and Rickert with 8.
“Kaira and I just did a really good job of finding their holes and picking them apart, point by point,” said Rickert.
“We just saw holes in their blocks,” said Knox. “Since we played them a lot, we knew what was open and just practiced hitting to them.”
“Kaira dominated the game tonight,” said Coach Young. “She is such a force for us. To be able to do that at 14 years old is really special. I’ve got to pinch myself knowing I get to coach her for three more years. I am really proud of Maggie. She had struggled a little bit the last couple of days, but got back on track in a big way.”
Freshman Kaira Knox took home the state tournament MVP in her first season of high school volleyball.
“It means a lot, because I know that my team trusts me to put the ball down and just be a good teammate,” said Knox.
“She is insanely good,” said Rickert. “We are so blessed to have her on our team and be a part of our program. She is going to do great things, and I am excited to see where she ends up.”
“We all see her skills,” said Avery Young. “I don’t think sometimes that Kaira knows just how good she is. She goes out and plays the game every time, and does not let errors get to her.”
“She is a phenomenal kid,” said Coach Young. “From day one, she has done everything we asked her to do. She is so coachable and wants to soak it all in. She is only going to get better.”
Both Nolensville and Ravenwood hope to use their successes as an anchor for next season.
“I am going to remember what this team had to do to get here,” said Coach West.
“This team stepped up in a big way in a transition year,” said Coach Young. “When you play super teams night in and night out, it is a grind. I thought our kids were phenomenal all year long, especially the way we bounced back after the tournament started for us (losing the first game). To run through five matches in three days and face the caliber of teams we did, I think the kids got what they deserved.”