In the early years, Watertown was part of a Class A-AA in which the Tigerettes had to contend with larger Class AA schools, including Greenbrier, which was a power at the time. After TSSAA divided volleyball into three Division I classes, Kaitlyn Teeter led Friendship Christian to back-to-back state championships. After Friendship moved to Division II, Goodpasture moved in and continued a run of state titles which began in AA and remains active at five going into its first season back in D-II.
For Watertown’s eight seniors, it’s the culmination of a goal set in March, according to coach Brandy Holcomb.
“This was our year to prove we have what it takes to do it in a single-A setting,” Holcomb said after her 2017 Tigerettes improved to 23-10.
“We knew going into this year we had a really good shot at the state tournament, that’s kind of been a dream,” said Brenna Luttrell, one of those eight seniors. “From March when we started open gym, we set this goal. We said let’s get it reached, let’s get the job done.”
Watertown finished second in the District 7-A tournament, but came back from 0-2 down to outlast host Gordonsville for the Tigerettes’ first-ever region championship Tuesday. Watertown had finished second in region play twice in the previous 11 years.
“That was magical,” Holcomb said of the comeback against Gordonsville. “I just prayed before the game started, I said, “God, you’re in charge. I’m just going to trust you. Your will be done’. We lost two early. But we never quit. We trusted and the Lord came through and we won that match. That was beautiful.”
Against Columbia Academy, Watertown faced a scrappy team, in its first sectional. But a 13-0 run in Game 4 turned a 7-6 Lady Bulldog lead into a 19-7 Tigerette runaway.
“We had actually played them early so we had some notes, we had some stats,” Holcomb said. “We weren’t going into this match blind and I think that helped us. We kind of knew what to expect from the service line. I felt like we were going to be a little bit bigger blocking and hitting. Volleyball is such a game of momentum. If you can keep momentum on your side, you can rack up those points. Every timeout kind of slows the momentum. It really is a game of strategy, it’s not just power all the time.
“I told the girls in the timeout (following the Game 2 loss) how bad do you want it? If you don’t ever get to play again, how bad would you play right now? I think you saw the difference in the score, in their attitude. Little school, big heart… This team’s been working since March in the gym. We were running, we were conditioning. Our goal, with those private schools out, our goal was state tournament. Of course, it’s not enough just to be there. We want to go there and compete. We wanted a district championship because we’ve never had that before. But winning that region was huge to be able to host this game.”
Teams hadn’t been placed in brackets as of Thursday night, but action will begin Tuesday at Middle Tennessee State’s Murphy Center with all eight Class A teams playing twice that day. Double-elimination action moves to Siegel High on Wednesday with the championship back at MTSU at noon Friday.
With Goodpasture and Friendship gone, are there any dominant Class A teams left?
“I have done some research on some teams, but it’s anyone’s game,” Holcomb said. “We played Sale Creek (which played host to Gordonsville on Thursday) out of Chattanooga, they’ve got a good squad. But I feel very confident in my girls that if they will play their game and play with heart and trust the Lord that we can beat anybody we play.”
Holcomb, a former Cumberland softball player, is the only volleyball coach WHS has ever had. She has a special rapport with her players, Luttrell said.
“She’s a great coach,” Luttrell said. “She’s an ever better person. The biggest thing that gives her success is she pushes us to be better people off the court, not just better players.
“We have a bond as teammates. But some teams, you get your coach around and it messes with it. With her, that’s not the case.”
Other Class A sectional winners were Berean Christian, South Greene, Sale Creek, Loretto, Summertown, Halls and Union City.