The Norris Middle School Volleyball Team claimed the East Tn State Sectional Title last Saturday at Anderson County High School. The Sectional Championship was the school’s 3rd state title in the last four years but like most trophies, the path to the top was a tough journey.
Norris’ quest for the sectional championship began in pool play Saturday morning against Chuckey-Doak Middle. The Lady Senators dominated both sets against the team from Greene County enroute to a 25-18, 25-13 victory.
Pool play continued with a match up against Ross N. Robinson Middle School from Kingsport.
Robinson won the first ever-sectional tournament in 2015. As the second seed from Area 1 Robinson was a favorite to win this year’s sectionals and a big test for Norris. The Lady Senators were up to the challenge, fighting off a determined Robinson team winning the first set 25-19 and the second 25-23. NMS 7th grade right-side hitter Catelyn Tackett scored the 25th point in both sets.
With two wins and no losses headed into the final pool play match against New Center, Norris was in the driver’s seat to claim a number one seed in the playoff bracket. Set one was a one-sided affair as it appeared that Norris was headed for an easy two set to none victory after jumping out to a 16 to 5 lead and winning the set 25-18.
However, New Center’s serving proved difficult for the Lady Senators in the second set as New Center surged to a 10 to 1 lead with 9 straight points on 3 aces.
New Center continued the serving barrage extending their lead to 23 to 13. Norris clawed back into the set bringing the score to 24-22 before New Center closed out the set 25-22.
The third and decisive set was dominated by effective serving from Norris as they won 15-11 including aces from Jada Seiber, Ebby Mayes, and Haven Swanner.
The win earned Norris a birth in the semi-finals against Lady Chargers from Colonial Heights Middle School. Colinial Heights was a sectional semifinalist last season and was the team that ended Norris’ dreams of a championship at last year’s tournament. Having played 3 straight matches without a break and surviving a three-set scare, Norris was ripe for a let down. However, the girls from NMS rallied as one and played their best match of the day serving, hitting, and digging the Lady Chargers off the court in a 25-19, 25-15 victory. The win earned Norris a birth in the school’s fourth Sectional Final. Six Lady Senators scored in the team’s victory with Emily Mustard, Haven Swanner, and Ebby Mayes scoring 6 points and 2 aces each and Caitlyn Tackett, Jada Seiber, and Emma Neff adding 5, 4, and 2 points respectively.
Tournament favorite Blountville Middle School defeated Robinson in the other semi-final to advance to the finals. The Lady Tigers went 3-0 in their pool without dropping a set and looked to live up to their expectations of winning it all. Only the small school from Norris and its brave volleyball team stood in the way. The first set only served to boost the ego of the Lady Tigers as Norris wilted under the serving pressure of Blountville dropping the set 25-14.
With only one set away from the State Sectional Title, Blountville looked unbeatable as no team had challenged them all day. However, the Lady Senator’s did not did give up as they battled for their championship lives in set two that featured nine ties and six lead changes. Late in the set, Blountville went up 21-18 but then served the ball out of bounds. Ebby Mayes toed the service line for Norris and served up three great serves tie the set at 21-21. Blountville then won the next two points to lead 23-21. NMS coach called the team’s last time out to rally his team. When play continued, all-tournament team member Haven Swanner made an incredible save on a Blountville spike and fellow all-tournament team members Ebby Mayes and Kyra Damewood connected for a Lady Senator kill. Norris surged ahead on a huge kill from tournament MVP Emily Mustard and served for the set at 24-23. Blountville won the next point but promptly served their serve out of bounds again giving NMS another set point at 25-24. Playing with ice water in her veins, NMS libero Haven Swanner served out the set as Norris won 26-24 and sent the championship into the third set.
The third set was a battle from beginning to end with 6 ties and 3 lead changes. Norris setter Ebby Mayes started a NMS run with three service points to take the Lady Senators to a 6-2 lead. The teams then traded sideouts before Emma Neff scored two more points for Norris extending their lead to 8-3. Blountville came roaring back scoring five straight service points including two aces to take an 11-10 lead before serving out of bounds. With the score knotted at 13-13 and either team just two points away from the championship the pressure was really on. Norris’s Jada Seiber received the serve from Blountville and made the perfect pass to NMS setter Ebby Mayes. Mayes softly set the ball to Emily Mustard who ripped a kill into corner of the Lady Tiger’s court and gave NMS the serve at 14-13. As Mustard stepped back to serve for the championship the pressure couldn’t have been greater, but with her entire team behind her, Mustard served a bullet and Norris won the championship point as the team and their fans erupted in euphoric cheers. Joining Mustard and the All-Sectional Team were: Ebby Mayes, Kyra Damewood, Emma Neff, and Haven Swanner. Other varsity players for Norris include: Sonia Bean, Ryanna Comer, Lexe Gatliff, Makyla Lowe, Brianna Merryfield, Jaycee Phillips, Madison Phillips, Zoey Rose, Jada Seiber, Catelyn Tackett, Ava Williams, and manager Amelia Tharp. Norris closed out its season with an Area 2 Championship, a Sectional Championship, and a 24-7 record.