HENDERSONVILLE The Beech High School volleyball squad repeatedly had an answer on Thursday evening.
However, the Lady Buccaneer response wasn’t good enough as Franklin ended Beech’s season with a 26-24, 25-11, 25-17 setback in one of eight Class AAA matches played on Thursday evening.
“Overall, I’m very pleased,” Beech first-year head coach Grant Harford said. “I knew this was going to be a tough battle. We just made way more errors than they did. We didn’t play up to our potential.”
The Lady Buccaneers reached the sectional round for the second consecutive season, falling in four games to visiting Ravenwood last season.
With Thursday’s win, the Lady Rebels advanced to the state tournament for the first time since 2005.
Franklin improved to 29-11 with Thursday’s victory.
“It is huge,” Lady Rebel second-year head coach Amber Holzer said. “It means everything. It also means that we worked really hard to get here. Nothing has been handed to us. It takes every single person in this program every single game to do the right things. Tonight, we did the right things.”
Franklin senior outside hitter Jodi Hill added, “(Holzer) has believed in us. When I was a freshman and sophomore, we didn’t believe we could win any game going into it. She’s put it into my mind. Now, we are going to the state.”
Franklin – which finished as the Region 6-AAA Tournament runner-up to two-time defending state champion Brentwood – surged out to a 21-12 lead in the first game, but a pair of kills and a block by sophomore middle hitter Kailey Clark helped Beech storm back.
Lady Buccaneer junior Britta Olund served up four consecutive points to help fend off five game points and tie the opening game at 24.
However, Lady Rebel junior setter Breanna Carlton pushed a ball into the open court to give her squad a sideout, and a Beech error on the next point ended game one.
“Their passing was spot-on,” Harford said. “Their defense was very scrappy. Quite frankly, that setter made that team. She took every bad pass … everything … and made a great set every single time. I was very impressed.”
Franklin (29-11) rolled to victory in game two and then built 10-3 lead in the third game.
However, Lady Buc senior Saidee McDaniel served up six consecutive points, which included a kill from classmate Riley Sperlich and a block by sophomore Elizabeth Epley.
“I’d like to think their resiliency comes from me,” Harford said. “I make them do it in practice. They’ve done it all year.
“At some point, it stopped being coach-led. Then, it was player-led. They refused to give up on each other.”
However, Lady Rebel junior Zoe Aebie served up six consecutive points to propel her squad out to a 17-11 cushion.
Franklin freshman Julie Keener ended the match with a kill.
Beech (38-10) won its first five postseason matches despite finishing the regular season in third place in District 9-AAA.
“We force them to work hard together in drills, and we make them do it in a game,” Harford said. “About three weeks ago at the end of our district play, something clicked. It became team-wide.
“They relied on each other. They expected each other to work and held each other to a standard.”
The Lady Buccaneers won their second regional championship and appeared in the sectional/substate round for only the third time in school history (also in 2000).
Beech loses two seniors – Sperlich and Saidee McDaniel.
“Right now, this loss is tough,” Harford said. “When they forget about it, in a week or two, they’ll look back on our accomplishments and realize that this team has accomplished more than any other Beech team … district champion, region champion, Bison Bash runner-up, West Creek Tournament winner … they’ll look back and realize this team accomplished a lot.
“I’m very pleased. I’ve demanded a lot from them, and they’ve responded every single time. Did I want to go to state … yeah. Can I look back on this season and be happy with them … 100 percent yes, without a doubt.”
Reach Craig Harris at 615-575-7138 or on Twitter @HarrisGNESports.