By Maurice Patton
MURFREESBORO – Before walking the walk, Miya Cole Brown talked the talk.
“She walked in the (huddle) and said, ‘we’re not going to lose to this team today’,” Summertown coach Andrea Kelly said of her senior outside hitter, who made sure that was not the case Friday as the Lady Eagles successfully defended their 2019 Class A volleyball state championship with a straight-sets victory over Lawrence County rival Loretto.
The win (25-9, 25-13, 25-12) was the seventh in as many meetings for Summertown against Loretto, which won the 2018 state title.
And just as Brown was pivotal in the Lady Eagles’ winners bracket final victory on Thursday against the Lady Mustangs, her intensity and her performance were both crucial in Friday’s outcome.
“I knew for our team to compete and win, it was my job to keep us excited,” said Brown, who was named Most Valuable Player of the state tournament as her team completed a 35-4 season. “Volleyball is a momentum sport. I’m very loud. That’s my job – to stay loud, stay excited.”
It wasn’t just a rah-rah effort for Brown, though. She and junior middle hitter Katie Burdette, the 2019 tourney MVP, were a 1-2 punch at the net that overcame Loretto after the Lady Mustangs (29-12) extended Thursday’s contest to five games.
“They were definitely trying to defend Katie,” Brown said. “But they knew I played well against them. (Friday) they dug a lot of balls, blocked me a few times.”
Loretto’s defense wasn’t quite as sharp Friday as it was Thursday, though – in part because after playing five games against Summertown, the Lady Mustangs went five in the losers bracket finals later that night against Sale Creek.
“You could tell the fatigue was there,” fourth-year Loretto coach Nick Quillen said. “When you play two five-set matches (that were) as intense as we played, you expect that. We were banking on digging deep to overcome it.
“Earlier in the season, with zero seniors, we knew that our young age was going to take hold. It reared its ugly head (Friday). We just weren’t mentally there.”
Brown scored a series of service points early in the initial game en route to the victory, quickly backing up her comments to her teammates.
“We knew every point we had to play like it was our last, and we did that,” Kelly said. “I’m so proud of the girls.”
The MVP and the coach agreed that the second state title has a different feel than the first – though possibly for different reasons.
“Last year was the first time, but (this year) we had a target on our back. To prove ‘them’ wrong is awesome,” Brown said.
“I’ve always said, every sport we play (Loretto), it’s important that we win,” Kelly said. “Nick’s a great coach; we’re friends. But in that moment, that’s all that matters.
“It’s do or die when we play Loretto.”