By Ken Lay

Farragut High School’s volleyball team completed the first step in a journey that it hopes will end in another trip to Murfreesboro.

But it was only a first step and it didn’t come easily for the Lady Admirals, who have made three consecutive appearances in the Class AAA State Tournament.

“This was an exciting match,” Farragut Coach Susan Davidson said after her top-seeded Lady Admirals prevailed 25-15, 22-25, 25-19, 25-23 over host and second-seeded Hardin Valley Academy before a spirited and boisterous crowd Thursday night. “Hardin Valley is an awesome team and we had to play each other twice in a span of 24 hours. This was just like [Wednesday] night.

“This is not just high school volleyball. This is another level. Every kid on this court and on the benches gave their best effort on both teams.”

In Wednesday night’s match, the Lady Admirals (39-4) needed five grueling sets to pick up their fourth win over Hardin Valley in 2016 and bump the Lady Hawks (29-8) into the loser’s bracket.

It was there that the tournament hosts had to go four sets to eliminate third-seeded Maryville while Farragut waited.

“We’ve had it tough,” HVA coach Mitzi McCurry said. “On Tuesday night, we had to play Maryville. Last night, it was Farragut. Then tonight, it was Maryville and then Farragut again.

“So our last four games were Farragut, Maryville, Maryville [and] Farragut. My kids played hard and now we get to play Oak Ridge and I’m excited for my girls. They gave it all they had but we had some things that just didn’t go our way tonight.”

One thing that didn’t go Hardin Valley’s way came in the fourth and deciding set. With the game knotted at 23, a Lady Hawks player was called for a lift as the referees called that she threw the ball over the net. The Lady Admirals were awarded the point and took a 24-23 lead before tournament Most Valuable Player Alexis Parker, an Indiana commitment, served up the final point.

Parker, who was also the regular-season MVP in 2016, finished the title match with 24 kills, four blocks and 12 digs.

She also received plenty of help from fellow senior Anne Abernathy, a Wingate commitment. Abernathy finished with 20 kills, four digs and three aces.

“Alexis, Anne and [senior libero] Madi Howell are our leaders,” Davidson said. “They do a great job helping our younger kids. Alexis is humble. Anne is great for us and she had a great game.

“Madi is a great libero and defensive specialist but she’s also our floor captain and she makes a lot of our calls.”

Parker and Abernathy are two of the area’s top hitters but their games are enhanced by setters Sydney Cherney and Allison Yander.  Cherney, a sophomore, finished with 28 assists, four aces and four kills. Yander dished out 23 assists.

Mandi Prescott led the Lady Hawks with 15 kills. Isabella Mitchell added eight and libero Katelyn Filipkowski finished the match with 23 digs.

The Region 2-AAA Tournament will be at Farragut Tuesday. The Lady Hawks will tangle with Oak Ridge while the Lady Admirals will play Anderson County.

Both semifinal matches will begin at 5 p.m. The two winners will play the title match at approximately 6:30 with both finalists qualifying for Thursday’s State Sectional round.

In District 3-AAA at Karns: Oak Ridge defeated Gibbs and Anderson County to claim the district title on Wednesday. Alex Shereles was named tournament MVP for the Lady Wildcats, who avenged last year’s loss to the Lady Mavericks in the championship match.

In District 4-AA: Kamila Cieslik sparked Catholic to another district championship. She had nine kills and 11 digs to lift the Lady Irish to a 25-15, 25-12, 25-4 victory over Christian Academy of Knoxville Tuesday night at Catholic High School.

Cieslik was the Most Valuable Player for the Irish, who have reached the Class AA State Championship match in each of the last two seasons. Catholic will play Carter Tuesday while the Lady Warriors will move on to face Gatlinburg-Pittman. The Lady Highlanders downed the Lady Hornets to capture the District 3-AA crown.

Webb wins another district title: The Lady Spartans swept The King’s Academy 25-13, 25-22, 25-19 to win the Division II East/Middle District 1 Tournament Tuesday night at Friendship Christian School in Nashville.

Webb is seeking its fourth consecutive state championship. The Lady Spartans and Lady Lions were set to host regional matches today (Monday). Match times and opponents were unavailable at press time.

Tournament MVP Nicklin Hames finished the championship match with 14 kills, 29 assists and nine digs. Meredith Wallace had 15 kills and 14 digs and Kayleigh Hames had 21 kills and 13 digs.

Brianna Connaster had 14 digs for the Lady Lions while Sonja LaFallotte scored 11 points and served up a pair of aces.