With less than a week remaining in the regular season, the Ooltewah volleyball team still doesn't know where it will be seeded when the District 5-AAA tournament starts next week.
What the Lady Owls are sure of, however, is that they remained in the running for the top spot by taking care of business at home Tuesday night against Cleveland. A 3-0 senior-night victory improves Ooltewah's record to 25-12 overall and 8-3 in district play with one 5-AAA match remaining against Rhea County on Thursday.
The Lady Owls dropped their first matches against district rivals Soddy-Daisy, Walker Valley and Cleveland earlier in the season, but earned victories over each of those teams the second time around. All the 5-AAA teams will be competing for the district title when the tournament begins Monday at Bradley Central.
"If we take care of business on Thursday, we can still be the No. 1 seed," Ooltewah coach Elaine Peigen said after Tuesday's win.
Ooltewah honored seniors Leondra Barrett, Isabela Zdunek, Karly Newman and Kelsey Chernak before the start of the Cleveland match, and those players then went out and delivered key performances in their team's victory. Barrett secured a 25-19 win in the first set with one of her nine kills, but game two was more of a battle.
After the Lady Owls took an early lead, Cleveland rallied to tie it at 7-7. The score would be tied seven more times in the set, as the Lady Blue Raiders pulled away for a 20-16 advantage before Ooltewah fought its way back. A kill from Sloan Sullivan tied it at 22, and Ooltewah's Courtlyn Ison made it 23-all with a block before an ace gave Cleveland game point at 25-24. The Lady Owls responded with one of Newman's eight kills, and two side-outs finished off their 27-25 victory.
Ooltewah started out strong in the third set, taking a 14-7 lead before the Lady Raiders rallied to tie the game at 15. The teams then traded points down the stretch before the Lady Owls took control by winning the last four. A kill from Newman put her team up 22-21, then an ace from Zdunek and two shots from Ison finished off Ooltewah's 25-21 victory.
"I think everybody contributed tonight," Peigen said. "We've just got to learn to work together and avoid those strings of errors. It seems like we keep getting ourselves into lulls, and it takes us forever to get out of them. But I'm very pleased with our performance."
Zdunek matched Barrett's nine-kill total for the night, and finished the match with eight digs and a block. Chernak's senior-night performance included 35 assists, nine digs, four kills and an ace, while Newman added 18 digs, two aces and a block.
"We have a wonderful group of seniors," Peigen said. "They've played together a long time, and they have great chemistry. They're going to be greatly missed."
Sloan Sullivan - 5 kills, 13 digs
Kelsey Chernak - 4 kills, 35 assists, 1 ace, 9 digs
Karly Newman - 8 kills, 2 aces, 18 digs
Izabela Zdunek - 9 kills, 1 aces, 8 digs
Leondra Barrett - 9 kills, 1 block
Courtlyn Ison - 8 kills, 2 digs, 4 blocks
Bethany Spange - 1 ace, 6 digs
Josie Cain - 1 ace, 11 digs
(E-mail Jaime Barrett at email@example.com