A pretty sweet season for the Ringgold Lady Tigers got a whole lot sweeter on Wednesday afternoon.
The Blue-and-White not only earned a trip to the Class AAA Sweet 16, but they secured at least one final home match for their seniors with a 25-10, 25-13, 26-28 and 25-12 victory over the visiting Hart County Lady Bulldogs at David L. Moss Gymnasium.
"It's awesome," senior Ricki Lnn Bickley said of advancing to the Round of 16 after blocking three shots and leading the Lady Tigers in digs (22) and kills (16) on the night. "It's the best feeling there is."
The Lady Bulldogs, the fourth-seed from Region 8, scored the initial point in each of the first two sets, but both times the Region 6 champs would come storming back.
Zoie Metcalf had eight straight service points at the beginning of the first set and the Lady Tigers would score the final six points to cruise to the first set victory. Metcalf, varying up her serves to keep Hart County off balance, had nine straight services points in the second set to build a 10-1 lead and the Lady Tigers never led by less than five points the remainder of the set.
However, the Lady Bulldogs came out swinging in the third set, staying within striking distance the entire way before finally tying the score at 23.
They staved off three match points before an ace by Tanyah Merritt - the first ace of the match for Hart - gave her team set point at 27-26. Middle hitter Rachel Addison then finished it off with a kill to briefly swing the momentum to the side of the visitors from Hartwell.
But the momentum wouldn't last very long as the Lady Tigers opened the fourth set with a renewed sense of urgency. They jumped out to a big lead, kept their foot on the accelerator and were never threatened. A final kill by senior Lauren Terrell finally closed out the match.
"We kind of let those first two wins go to our head a little and didn't keep pushing," Bickely said of the third set loss. "We realized we had to get it together if we really wanted to proceed to the second round. It was our time to shine, so why not do it in style?"
Errors also played a crucial role on Wednesday. Ringgold made just four service errors all night long, while most of their kill attempts resulted in kills or digs by the Lady Bulldogs. Meanwhile, Hart saw numerous service and shot attempts sail long or crash into the net.
"If you want to win, you have to be able to serve the ball," Ringgold head coach Ashley Borne said. "Otherwise, you're just giving (the other team) a point. We just missed one serve in each set and that's not bad. We also didn't have too many errors on attacks, either in the net or out of bounds, so that was important too."
Metcalf dished out 33 assists to go with 15 digs, 10 aces and three kills. Chloe Hall played solid defense with 18 digs to go with her seven kills and three aces. Jasley Brooks had 10 digs, four kills and an ace, while Terrell finished with 12 digs, three kills, three aces and two assists.
Also contributing was Bethany Thomason (3 kills, 1 ace, 1 block, 1 dig), Emily Ridley (9 digs) and Jewel Parham (2 digs).
Next up for the Lady Tigers (24-17) will be a home match against either Stone Mountain or No. 4-ranked Greater Atlanta Christian. The winner of that match was unknown as of press time, but the No. 4-ranked Lady Spartans of GAC were the heavy favorite going into the match and the team Borne expects to see on Tuesday back in Catoosa County.
"We're happy to get the win and we're happy to get one more match at home," she said. "We've been used to traveling (in the playoffs) the last few years, so hosting the first two rounds is great. We want a big crowd to come out and support us. The match is going to be tough, but hopefully we'll have some good practices leading up to it and we'll be ready to play on Tuesday."
The start time for the match was unknown as of press time.
LFO eliminated on the road
The Lady Warriors, the No. 3 seed from Region 6, were handled in three sets at East Jackson on Wednesday, 25-9, 25-19 and 25-10.
No further details from the match were provided as of press time.
LFO ended its season with a 12-31 record.