For Brentwood High, three straight seasons without an appearance in the state volleyball tournament is far too long.
It probably feels more like a decade to 25-year veteran coach Barbara Campbell, who has guided her team to eight state championships, more than any other school.
On Wednesday, the Bruins (56-4) make their long-awaited return to the TSSAA Class AAA championship when they meet Memphis Bartlett in the opening match, 9 a.m. at Siegel High in Murfreesboro.
None of the players on this year’s roster were even on the team in 2008, the last time the Bruins got to state. The two seniors were eighth-graders that year, when Brentwood was the runner-up to Independence.
“We’ve worked so hard to get to this point,” senior Alexis Spahn, a 5-foot-6 librero and outside hitter, said. “It feels great, we reached our goal of finally getting back to state.
“As a group, we have really gotten along well both on an off the court. Winning the sectional match was great, because they [Mt. Juliet] always have a good team.’’
Captain and star setter Hunter Thompson had 27 assists in the sweep Mt. Juliet. Outside hitter Sarah Tuttle had 12 kills, Spahn had six digs, and sophomore hitter Samantha Cotton added eight kills.
“The chemistry on this team is awesome,” Campbell, who is taking her 19th team to a state tournament, said. “From that standpoint, it’s very comparable to our 2007 [state championship] team and 2008 team.”
After 2008, there was a changing of the guard in District 11-AAA. At that point, Brentwood’s county rivals Ravenwood and Independence, rose to prominence and consistently kept the Bruins out of the state tournament since.
Prior to that, BHS appeared in 10 finals and won six titles, including five in a row (1998-2002), 1994 through 2007.
“That’s always been our goal — getting back to state,” 5-foot-2 senior Maddie Herrud said. “It looks like we’ll play Ravenwood again, if we get to finals. We know a lot of girls on their team, and it’s a good rivalry.”
Campbell’s teams still have the state’s four highest single-season win totals with 77 (1998), 73 (2000), 71 (1997) and 70 (1999). The 1997 team was the only one of those that did not win a state title.
“Our district is the toughest in the state,’’ Campbell said flatly. “For the past few years, our district has had four of the top 10 teams in the state. This year, we probably had four [Brentwood, Ravenwood, Independence, Centennial] of the top eight. It’s a real challenge just to get out of district. Only two go to region.”
Case in point, Independence, which was the No. 4 seed in last year’s district tournament, finished runner-up to Ravenwood for the state championship.
“It just seems that in the past three years, we’ve had some little issue that kept us from getting further,” Campbell said. “Whether it’s an injury or a tough five-game loss or something else, there was something that came up which held us back.”
It’s Campbell’s effervescent, charismatic personality that is the constant.
“She’s a character,’’ Spahn said. “She keeps us motivated and playing at our highest level. It’s been a fun four years.”
Most observers believe that Brentwood and Ravenwood will have another showdown Friday in the finals. They already have met in the district and region finals.
BHS has a 4-2 lead head-to-head this season.
Ravenwood (40-9) will be in action at noon Wednesday against Bearden. That follows the Brentwood match.
Quarterfinal winners meet in the semifinals later in the day.
• In Class AA, powerful Goodpasture (41-3) opens play 2 p.m. Wednesday against Red Bank at Blackman High.
• At MTSU, Middle/East region champ Harpeth Hall (27-7) and Battle Ground Academy (32-11) are in action in DII-AA, while St. Cecilia and Davidson Academy compete in DII-A.
The three-day tournament concludes with all championship matches Friday at Middle Tennessee State.