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Covenant wins TNCAA championship
Covenant won the TNCAA championship Thursday, downing Madison Academy to complete an undefeated run in conference play. Members of the team are, front row, from left, Naina Patel, Emma Madewell and Sarah Sharpe. Back row, Katie Pack, Dalton Burks, Arianna Hutchins, Anuja Patel, Lily Kell, Madisen Madewell, Anabel Lassiter and Erica Clay.
Covenant Academy has climbed to the top of the volleyball ranks.

The Lady Lions claimed the TNCAA tournament championship Thursday night, completing an undefeated run through the conference that culminated with a four-set victory over Madison Academy.

Covenant finished 10-0 during the season against TNCAA competition, then won both of its tournament matches. The final victory was 25-13, 25-21, 21-25 and 26-24 over Covenant’s main rival.

“This is what we worked for the entire season. I was proud of the way the girls came out focused and ready to play,” said coach Chris Madewell. “I couldn’t be any more excited for these girls. It is awesome as a coach to see your team work towards a goal and do the things necessary to accomplish it.”

The win didn’t come without its share of worries though.

After riding Arianna Hutchins’ hot serving in the first set and taking a closely contested second set, Covenant saw the momentum turn in the third set.

Madison Academy rallied back to win the third, then was on the brink of forcing a deciding fifth set after gaining a 24-22 lead.

The final point wouldn’t come for the Lady Knights.

Naina Patel stepped to the service line and calmly picked apart the defense. Covenant rallied to score four straight points behind Patel, the final triggering a celebration of the state championship.

“We played solid and didn’t make a lot of mistakes when we got to crunch time,” said Madewell. “They had a really good hitter. She had some good hits, but we didn’t let that get us down.

“It was close and exciting, but the girls never seemed nervous.”

Having senior leadership helped.

Covenant was guided all season by its five seniors – Hutchins, Dalton Burks, Emma Madewell, Anuja Patel and Naina Patel. Madewell saw their impact all season, including in the deciding game Thursday.

“I could see a gradual change throughout the season on how the team prepared,” said Madewell. “I saw a lot of maturity both on and off the court. The senior group was the main reason. They learned how to be leaders.”

Now the Lady Lions have their eyes on another title. Covenant will be one of 48 teams taking part in the NACA tournament held in Dayton this week. The Lady Lions are set to start play Wednesday.

“We’ve been before. There’s always a lot of talent at the event,” said Madewell.

More details about the schedule will be listed when they’re available.