Lady Senators win second straight state title

The Norris Middle School Volleyball Team captured the TMSAA Large School Sectional Title (the highest level in the state) for the second straight year at Anderson County High School on Saturday, Sept. 30.

The title came only after fierce day of competition among East Tennessee’s best middle school teams.

In order to play for the sectional title, NMS had to qualify in their Area tournament.

The first stop on defending their Area 2 title was a rematch with district foe Clinton Middle School on Sept. 26. The Lady Senators dispatched a much-improved CMS Lady Hawk team in the Area 2 Semi-finals 25-5, 25-11.

The victory set up a battle for the Area 2 Championship with rival Jefferson Middle School, the only district team to take a set from NMS this season.

Jefferson came to play even though NMS had beaten them three times already during the season, including the week before. The Lady Eagles from Oak Ridge battled NMS back and forth until Jefferson jumped out to a 15-11 lead and NMS called timeout. NMS came out of the timeout refocused and went on a scoring run of their own taking a 21-16 lead after a Sadie Alvis ace.

The teams traded points before Lady Senator Jayce Braden served out the set with three straight points with Norris winning 25-20. The second set was much like the first with neither team giving any ground. Norris final squeezed ahead 12-9 as Jefferson called a timeout.

After the break, Jefferson clawed back to tie the set at 18-18 with effective serving including 3 aces. That was about as close as they would get to the Area 2 Title as NMS outside hitter Emily Varner served out the match with 5 straight points including a match point ace.

Kylee Alvis and Jayce Braden were named to the all-tournament team and Leah Freeman was chosen as the Area 2 Most Valuable Player.

The victory placed NMS as a number one seed in the sectional tournament on Saturday, Sept. 30 at ACHS. The tournament included eight teams from TMSAA schools from Bristol to Roane County. The day started with two pools of four teams playing round-robin style pool play in order to seed for a single elimination tournament.

NMS began Sectional play with a 25-8, 25-5 victory over Boyd’s Creek from Sevier County.

Norris’ next opponent was Blountville Middle whom the Lady Senators dispatched 25-22, 25-16.

This would not be the last time NMS would face the Blountville team however. The final match of pool play for NMS was against a determined Greeneville Middle School Team.

NMS won the first set 25-21 then dropped the second in a close set 23-25 setting up the third and decisive set, which Norris won handily 15-6.

The victory placed NMS first in their pool and set up a quarterfinal match with Seymour.

The Lady Senators plowed through the Lady Eagles of Seymour 25-9, 25-8 like a team on a mission to advance to the semi-finals and a rematch with Greeneville.

The semi-final was a match for the ages as both teams realized that a loss would end their season and their dreams of a State title.

In set one, Norris jumped out to a 4-0 lead then led 8-1 before Greeneville scored eight straight points to go up 9-8. The Green Devils continued to pressure NMS and took the first set 25-19.

Down one set to none in an elimination game, NMS had its back against the wall and had to win set two or their chance and repeating was over.

Led by the serving of Leah Freeman (13 points, two aces) and Sadie Alvis (11 points, two aces), Norris sprinted out to a 13-1 lead en route to a 25-12 victory.

With the match tied one set each, the teams faced off in a winner take all set played to 15.

Norris had an early 8-4 lead that quickly evaporated with tough serving from Greeneville.

The score was tied at 12-12 when Norris’ Sadie Alvis missed her serve giving Greeneville a 13-12 lead and the serve. Greeneville won the next point on a long rally where the ball passed over the net more than 10 times before the Green Devils were able to score and serve for the match at 14-12.

Norris middle blocker Jayce Braden stuff blocked a Greeneville player to make the score 14-13 and send NMS setter Kylee Alvis back to serve.

Alvis ripped a serve that Greeneville couldn’t return to knot the set at 14-14. Both teams traded points before Greeneville went up 17-16 and served again for the match.

NMS Middle Hitter Allie Ammons scored a huge kill to retie the match at 17-17 and send outside hitter Emily (the Cannon) Varner back to serve.

Varner lived you to her nickname serving a bullet serve to start the point. After several volleys and big swings it was Sadie Alvis who made the kill to give NMS the lead and their own match point at 18-17. Varner once again tossed up a perfect serve and the Norris defense perfectly dug a Greeneville spike to set up the final kill from Sadie Alvis off the pin-point set of her sister to seize the match 19-17.

Although the match was as intense as a final could be, Norris still had to face Blountville for the Sectional title. After such an emotional victory Norris started the first set of the finals a little flat letting Blountville score repeatedly on two-hand dinks and 3 four point serving runs to give Blountville a 14-8 advantage. Norris made a run to make the score 14-17 but just couldn’t get it together losing the first set 25-18.

Once again, the Lady Senators were on the brink of elimination having to win two straight sets to win the match. Eigth grade stars Erin Cantrell, Kylee Alvis, Sadie Alvis, Allie Ammons, Emily Varner, Leah Freeman, and Jayce Braden were not about to give up on their goal of Sectional Champions.

The Norris Middle School supporting players on the bench upped their cheers to a whole new level in support of their team and the crowd joined in nearly bringing the roof down. That energy heled Freeman start the match scoring five straight points and Norris never let up as they cruised to a 16-9 lead and a Blountville timeout. After the break, Jayce Braden and Erin Cantrell added an ace each to take NMS to 23-17. Sadie Alvis finished the set out with two points and a 25-17 Senator victory.

Both teams looked determined as they lined up for the final set of the tournament to determine the Sectional Champion.

Both teams had short service runs to bring the score to 6-5 Blountville as Norris’ Coach Harshbarger called a timeout. After the timeout and a Jayce Braden kill, Norris setter Kylee Alvis went back to serve three “darts” that brought the score to 9-7 Norris. Blountville called its own timeout but the timeout just became a cheer fest for Norris chanting “Lady Senators” for the entire break in the action. Kylee Alvis returned to serve after the pause in action and served one of the best serves of her career dropping the ball in the middle of the court for an untouched ace.

The gym exploded with cheers and the team from Blountville was done. Jayce Braden served two more points and Emily Varner finished the match scoring the 15th point for Norris securing their second straight Sectional Championship.

Making the All-Tournament Team were Kylee Alvis, Jayce Braden, Erin Cantrell, and Emily Varner. NMS Libero Leah Freeman was named the Sectional Tournament MVP.

Norris finished the season undefeated in district play for the third straight year and with a record of 35 wins and only three loses.