BY DARREN REESE
A perfect blend of experience and talent has carried the South Greene volleyball team on yet another deep run into the postseason.
And never were those two attributes on display more than they were Thursday night in the Class AA State Sectional round.
The Lady Rebels, who have grown accustomed to playing in big games, looked comfortable from the get-go and completely dismantled visiting Alcoa, rolling to a 3-0 victory and punching their fourth consecutive ticket to the state tournament.
The final game scores were 25-14, 25-11 and 25-7.
"It's that Rebel magic," South Greene senior Konnor Donahue said. "Every year I've been here, we've had a substate game at home and won."
"It's something special to go to the state tournament, especially being a senior and getting to go all four years. We are definitely looking forward to it again."
South Greene used a 9-2 run to open up a double-digit lead early in the first set, and proceeded to make quick work of the Tornadoes.
The Lady Rebels lost just one set in winning both the District 2-AA and Region 1-AA tournaments the past two weeks, but Thursday night's effort impressed even head coach Stephen Gregg.
"As a coach, you can always find things to improve on," Gregg said, "But tonight, I'm just so happy for the girls. They deserve all the feelings they are feeling right now."
"In years past, we have typically picked up our level of play at tournament time. It's just a tradition here. And you saw that here tonight The girls realized the importance of every ball."
South Greene senior Maelyn Cutshaw and junior Alora Ricker finished with 13 kills apiece, with both connecting at almost a .500 clip. Maci Brown and Donahue had 14 and 12 blocks, respectively. Donahue added eight kills.
"We played our hearts out tonight," Donahue said. "We were just clicking. The way we play together on the court, it's just magical."
Jessica Gallihar recorded 14 digs for South Greene, while Javan Wilhoit paced the team in assists.
Cutshaw recorded five kills in the first set, and a pair of points by Ricker pushed the lead to 17-7.
Alcoa used its second time-out of the evening to try and stop the early bleeding, but it was to of no avail. The two teams traded points down the stretch before South Greene captured a 25-14 win.
The night got even worse for the Lady Tornadoes after that.
Consecutive kills by Cutshaw helped make it 7-1 early in the second set, and the Lady Rebels used a pair of 5-0 runs to roll to a 25-11 victory.
South Greene put together an 8-1 run in the third set to open up a 15-5 margin and coasted home.
"Getting those big early leads were key for us tonight," Gregg noted. "I was really pleased with our effort from the very beginning."
South Greene will now await the release of the state tournament brackets. The event is scheduled for next Wednesday-Friday (October 24-26) in Murfreesboro.
The Lady Rebels went 2-2 at state last year, giving them a fourth-place finish.
"Every year, this is our goal," Gregg said, "to get to state."
"But we aren't just pleased with getting there. Every year we want to do better than before."
The opening day of the Class AA tournament will be held at Blackman High School. The tournament then moves to Middle Tennessee State University on the second day. Friday's championship match will also be held at MTSU.
In another Class AA sectional round match Thursday night, Sullivan East, which lost to South Greene in the Region 1-AA finals, saw its season come to an end with a 3-0 loss at CAK.