LEBANON Saidee McDaniel had to sit and watch as the Beech High School volleyball program had one of its most successful season in school history last fall.
She’s in the middle of the postseason success now though.
McDaniel helped her third-seeded squad avenge a pair of regular-season losses to No. 2 seed Lebanon on Tuesday evening, capturing a 25-21, 17-25, 25-12, 26-24 victory in a District 9-AAA Tournament semifinal match played on Tuesday evening at Wilson Central High School.
“It really does (mean a lot),” Saidee McDaniel – who suffered a season-ending knee injury while playing for the Nashville-based Ethos Volleyball Club last July – said. “I transferred my sophomore year to Beech. That year was really hard on me. Beech volleyball, all the girls are such good friends. They brought me in and made me feel a part of the team. Even being injured, I tried to do all I could to help. Now, I get to be the one to play.
“It’s really amazing … it’s just great.”
The Lady Buccaneers suffered a four-game loss when the two teams played at Lebanon and a five-game setback when they played at Beech.
“Since they had beaten us twice during the regular season, some of us were really excited,” Saidee McDaniel said. “Some of us were kind of nervous. Because of how close of a family we are, we pulled each other out of that shell. You want to play aggressive. You can’t do that if you’re scared of the team across the net.
“We just had to play to the best of our ability. That’s what we did.”
Beech’s strategy on Tuesday was simple.
“Our serving was much better this time than the last time,” Lady Buccaneer first-year head coach Grant Harford said. “Any good team will tell you that you have to be aggressive when you serve. If you’re not aggressive, they’ll ram the ball down your throats.
“That’s what we stressed today (in practice before the match).”
Saidee McDaniel added, “Lately in practices that we’ve been having, Coach (Harford) has been pushing us in our serves, serving aggressive. Every game we play is based on our serving and serve receive. We’ve been working on that. That definitely contributed to the win. Everything we were doing was trying to be as aggressive (as possible). We even changed our defense around, because they are such good hitters. Everything we put over the net … even if it was a tip, it was to a spot. We don’t want to let them get in a position to hit.”
The Lady Devils never led in the opening game but pulled back to within a point at 21-20.
However, senior Elizabeth Epley won the next two points with a tip and a block to help Beech (35-9) close it out.
Lebanon responded by racing out to an 11-4 lead in game two en route to evening the match.
There were five ties early on in game three before the Lady Bucs broke free.
Senior outside hitter Riley Sperlich produced three kills over a five-point stretch, and then, Epley served up five consecutive points – including two kills from sophomore middle hitter Kailey Clark – to build an 18-9 lead.
Junior Veronica Gutierrez ended the third game by serving up back-to-back aces.
The Lady Devils (19-6) were on the brink of forcing a fifth game, leading 24-21.
However, Clark won a point with a successful tip, and junior Reeves Parrish served up the next four points, ending the match with a serve that Lebanon couldn’t return.
“In volleyball, it’s a difficult sport,” Saidee McDaniel said. “When you have a couple of mess-ups, the whole momentum changes.
“We had a block (by Sperlich) and a kill (by sophomore Chloee McDaniel) there at the end, and everything shifted. Everybody was like, ‘we can do this.’ It’s really just trying to erase that mess-up you just had and focus on the next point. We realized we could do it.”
Harford added, “With a team like that, it just comes down to one or two-point swings. Fortunately for us, they were in our favor. I’m very pleased. I made them be aggressive the entire year for situations like this. I don’t want my server going back there to give them an easy serve to side out and win the game. They have to be aggressive. They train the entire year for it.”
The Lady Buccaneers advanced to face top-seeded Portland in Thursday’s championship match.
>> Beech opened the tournament with a 22-25, 25-14, 25-23, 25-11 win over No. 6 seed Hendersonville in Monday’s quarterfinal round.
Lebanon defeated No. 7 seed Wilson Central in three games on Monday.
Reach Craig Harris at 615-575-7138 or on Twitter @HarrisGNESports.