MURFREESBORO — The big front row hitters for Goodpasture Christian School know to thank Abby Honeycutt for their big spikes, which are plentiful.
With two wins Wednesday, Honeycutt and the Cougars closed in on the Class AA state volleyball championship, which is rare.
Honeycutt, the Cougars' leading setter, was at her best Wednesday afternoon and in concert with her hitters, 6-foot-2 Macy Reece and 6-foot Katelyn Atkinson. That helped Goodpasture beat down Chattanooga Red Bank and South Greene in their first two matches at Blackman High.
The Cougars (43-3), who have finished as runner-up twice but never won a state volleyball title, are now in the winners bracket finals where they meet East Hamilton 1 p.m. Thursday. The winner advances to Friday's final.
"For me, it's a real honor to be the one setting up our front row hitters who are so good,'' Honeycutt, a 5-foot-10 senior, said. "I know that if I give them a good pass, they are going to put it down.
"It's awesome to have teammates like I do, they really make me look good.”
In the middle of the boisterous Goodpasture cheering section was a huge placard of Honeycutt, similar to those displayed on ESPN's GameDay.
"We have great fans,'' she said, laughing. "They give us great support.''
Reece, a junior and an Auburn commitment, and Atkinson, a senior, again dominated at the net, combining for 24 kills in the first match against Red Bank.
"We were really focused in,'' 15th-year coach Lynn Dearing said. "We came out ready to go. It's a team effort, and everyone played well.''
Asked if this was her best team, Dearing didn't hesitate.
"Yes it is,'' she said. "We are strong everywhere, our hitters, setters, servers and back row, all six positions. Sometimes in the past, we might have tried to hide our No. 6 player, but not on this team.''
• Class AAA: Brentwood High and Ravenwood each won matches and the Williamson County rivals advanced into a seventh matchup against each other 1 p.m. Thursday at Siegel High in the winners bracket final.
The winner moves to within one victory of the title. The championship match is set for 6 p.m. Friday.
Each tem won their first matches in straight games, then faced stiffer tests. The Bruins beat Ooltewah, while the Raptors stopped Sullivan South, each in four games.
• DII-AA: Harpeth Hall reached the winners bracket finals with a victory over St. Agnes, while Battle Ground Academy lost a hard-fought, five-game semifinal to Chattanooga Baylor in semifinal matches.
Earlier in the season, BGA lost in three straight games to Baylor, but nearly knocked out the Raiders this time. The Wildcats faded late in the fifth and fell 22-25, 25-22, 25-20, 22-25, 15-9 in a two-hour struggle.
Before a loud BGA student section, junior Anisa Moore pounded a spike to win the first game. She had six more kills in the fourth as the Wildcats moved closer to the upset. But with the score tied 5-5, Baylor outscored BGA 10-4 the rest of the way.
"The girls really worked hard and were ready to play,'' BGA coach Katie Sundstrom said. "Once you get here, everyone is good. [Baylor] just won two or three key points in the fifth and that was the difference.''
Later in the day, BGA (32-13) lost to St. Agnes, ending one of their best seasons in school history.
• DII-A: Nashville teams claimed both the winners bracket finals as St. Cecilia and Davidson Academy both won their semifinal matches in straight games. The two teams meet 10 a.m. Thursday at Siegel in the winners bracket finals.