Inaugural Border Battle provides high level competition for local volleyball teams

By Chris Yow

In a normal season, Andrea Kelly’s Summertown volleyball team would have more than 30 matches under their belt to this point. With restrictions on entering tournaments due to COVID-19, the defending Class A state champions have not been able to play the level of competition it is used to playing to this point.

That changed on Saturday when Summit and Siegel combined their planned tournaments into a regional spectacle. The inaugural Border Battle tournament featured teams from across Tennessee, as well as one of the top programs in Alabama, Hazel Green. Teams from Kentucky were forced to drop out due to COVID-19 restrictions.

“A tournament like this lifts everybody’s visibility,” Summit coach Warne Riker said. “Trying to get the best teams from Memphis playing against the best from Knoxville, we’re right in the middle. If it wasn’t for COVID, we’d have the best teams from three states right here. It’s a perfect location.”

Summertown’s Katie Burdette with a hit against Hickman County in the Eagles’ pool win. (Photo by Chris Yow / SM-Tn Sports)

Kelly said playing in this tournament, despite losing the first match in pool play 2-1 against Lebanon (20-25, 26-24, 15-9), is vital to her team’s overall success.

“Playing Lebanon, a big school with an awesome team, changed our whole game,” she said. “As far as speed and what defense we play, it’s a huge difference in what we see in our local area.”

That loss was only the second of the season for Summertown, but it was only the second Saturday event the team has participated in, the other being in the championship of the Lawrence County Border Battle tournament.

“We needed to lose,” Kelly said. “Not that I wanted to lose, but it was a learning loss. It’s hard to tell players that they’re doing little things wrong when they’re winning. After a loss, they start to understand that we do have things we still need to work on.”

The Eagles finished third in their pool, going 1-1 in pool play, defeating Hickman County (25-12, 25-20) in their second match. They were relegated to the silver bracket, as Lebanon and Page each went 2-0 to advance to the gold bracket from the pool. The Eagles took runner-up in the bracket, defeating Stewart’s Creek (23-25, 25-15, 15-12), but falling to Ravenwood in the finals (25-21, 22-25, 15-13).

Summit won their pool with relative ease, sweeping both matches against Red Bank (25-10, 25-6) and Greenbrier (25-6, 25-19). The Spartans, however, fell in the first round of the gold bracket to Station Camp (25-23, 25-18).

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