It came down to the last game of the regular season for the Roane State Raiders volleyball team to become the 2021 TCCAA regular-season champions.
In only the program’s second season, the Raiders achieved the unexpected with a come-from-behind, five-set win over five-time defending champions Walters State (19-25, 25-22, 21-25, 25-16 and 16-14).
By winning the regular-season crown, the Raiders earned the top seed in the coming NJCAA Region VII tournament, Oct. 29-30, which will be played at Walters State in Morristown.
Led by freshman Mattie Arnett’s 32 kills on 61 attempts, Roane State came back from a 2-1 deficit in what was certainly the program’s most-hard-fought and exciting match.
After the contest, Head Coach Steve Dallman said, “Those kids … deserved it. They worked their butts off and they gave us everything they had.”
The Senators cut the deficit to seven, 23-16, before the Raiders secured the game by breaking the Walters serve and then winning on a blazing Arnett kill.
Since Walters State began its volleyball program in 2016, it had not lost a conference match until the Raiders beat the Senators on their home court on Sept. 7. Later, the Senators would exact some revenge by shutting out the Raiders in Harriman on Sept. 23.
Both teams were riding six-game winning streaks as they battled in their third meeting of the season.
In addition to Arnett’s 32 kills, last year’s freshman of the year, Sydney Smith, added 15.
Raiders’ freshman Katharine Roberts tallied a school record 61 assists on the night, while four Raiders had double-figure digs, including sophomores Taryn Lane and Sydney Smith, who had 23 and 22, respectively.
On the night that featured the team’s biggest victory to date, it also highlighted six players who participated in their final home games as Roane State Raiders. Sophomores Abbie Stinnett, Emily Evans, Sally Spangler, Maddy Taylor, Sydney Smith and Taryn Lane were all honored in a pre-game ceremony.
The Raiders volleyball program began in 2020, but due to COVID precautions, the season was postponed until early 2021. In their truncated, inaugural season, the Raiders finished 5-8 overall and ended conference play in second place.
With the win, the Raiders improved to 16-4 on the season (7-2 in conference) as well as earning the top seed in the NJCAA Region VII tournament. They will face fourth-seeded Cleveland State at 5 p.m. Oct. 29 at Walters State in Morristown.
Dallman said, “We just have to stay focused because … we just cannot expect to walk through anybody. We have to be ready every single match from here on.”