Ooltewah playing Soddy-Daisy on the volleyball court has become old hat.
So have the outcomes.
Ooltewah defeated Soddy-Daisy for the fifth time this season, but Tuesday’s 3-1 victory in Ed Foster Gymnasium catapulted the Lady Owls to their second straight Region 3-AAA championship and also earned them a host role in Thursday’s sectionals.
“We had to fight with everything we had tonight to get past Soddy-Daisy,” said Ooltewah coach Elaine Peigen, who guided the Lady Owls past the Lady Trojans in the District 5-AAA tournament title match last week said.
The Lady Owls won Tuesday’s match with set scores of 25-13, 25-20, 21-25, 25-18 and are a combined 14-6 in the five matches this season against the Lady Trojans.
As the region champion, Ooltewah (43-10) will host Region 4-AAA runner-up Columbia on Thursday at 7 p.m. Soddy-Daisy (42-18) will travel to Siegel.
In Region 4-AAA semifinals on Tuesday, Columbia beat Riverdale, 3-2, and Siegel got past Coffee County, 3-0, to set up the championship match, which Siegel won, 3-0.
Ooltewah hosted and defeated Siegel in last year’s sectional.
“Hosting a sectional is really important,” said junior Courtlyn Ison, who added a Region 3-AAA Most Valuable Player award to her District 5-AAA tournament honor last week. “It’s our house and our students really come out and support us. Last year this place was packed and that really gave us a confidence boost.”
Ison also shared the district player of the year award with East Hamilton’s talented sophomore Emma Lenoir.
After Soddy-Daisy extended the match by winning the third set, the Lady Owls broke away from a 3-all tie and build a 13-3 lead on Bethany Spange’s tip at the net. Soddy-Daisy’s Chloe Mitchell and Ooltewah freshman Sidney Killingsworth exchanged point-winning shots and the Lady Trojans reeled off the next six points to slice their deficit to 14-10.
Abby Walker’s served sailed wide, but she came back with a tip and Haley Reynolds added a kill and a winning block and the Lady Trojans were within striking distances at 13-15. Walker finished with five kills, 18 digs and two aces.
“Winning the third set made us work harder,” said Soddy-Daisy’s Lauren Smith, who had eight kills, 21 digs and three aces. “We’re a solid team and we always fight back.”
A banner which has appeared at all the postseason matches – Ooltewah has hosted the district and regional tournaments – reads: “#32 (Ison) IS TAKING CARE OF BUSINESS AND BUSINESS IS GOOD.”
With her team nursing the two-point lead, Ison scored four points in a 7-2 run that helped open a 22-15 lead. Alex Biro had two kills and Hanna Matthews ripped an ace – all the Lady Owls deploy clothesline serves with zip – in the spree.
“We want velocity serves,” Peigen said. “We want them to be aggressive. “I really thought our serving was the difference tonight. Josie (Cain), Sloan (Sullivan) and Summer Williams served well. Summer had four aces.”
Another Ison kill – she finished with 15 kills and 8.5 blocks, 2.5 more than Soddy-Daisy’s team – gave Ooltewah a 23-16 lead and an out-of-bounds Walker shot and Sullivan’s kill sealed the set and match.
“It’s exciting,” Sullivan said. “I think we got a little nervous when they got to 15-13. We’re happy to keep it going.”
The Lady Owls used an 11-1 run, capped by Spange’s soft push shot that was perfectly placed, to build an 18-11 first-set lead. The advantage went to 23-13 on Kailin Higgins’ her one ace in the match and Soddy-Daisy’s Haley Reynolds went long on back-to-back kills to end the set.
Ooltewah had a 4-0 lead in the second set, but Soddy-Daisy went on an 11-7 run to tie the set at 11-all despite three more Ison kills.
Soddy-Daisy went up 13-12 on Mitchell’s service point and was still within a point at 18-17 after a Lady Owl shot went side-out. Killingsworth scored on a push, Spange had a kill and Sullivan recorded kill and winning push for a 22-17 lead.
Leading 22-20 Ooltewah got two kills from Sullivan and a Spange service point to close out the set, 25-20.
“We just haven’t been consistent playing at a higher level,” Soddy-Daisy coach Lorri Johnson said. “Ooltewah has been consistently better doing that.”
It was do-or-die for the Lady Trojans in the third set, and it didn’t start all that well.
Ooltewah jumped out to an 8-2 lead only to see the Lady Trojans record the next 12 points for a 14-8 cushion, the last winner in that spree coming on Reynolds’ block on an Ison slam shot near the net.
Spange’s deep corner shot ended Ooltewah’s scoring drought.
When Alex Volker scored on a kill and Ooltewah made an error the Lady Trojans had a 19-11 lead. The Lady Owls scored four straight points, the last two on a block and tip by Sullivan, to close within 19-15.
A Volker tip and Reynolds’ kill sandwiched a net serve and Soddy-Daisy led 24-18. Sullivan had a kill and the Lady Trojans were errant on a serve and side-out shot enabling Ooltewah to close to 24-21.
An Ooltewah error gave Soddy-Daisy the final point.
“We got out there and got after them,” Johnson said of the Lady Trojans’ third-set win. “We didn’t make as many unforced errors and they made some because we kept pressure on them.”
Said Ison: “I see that happen all the time, we win two and the other team wins. We have to avoid that, especially when we get to sectionals and hopefully past that. The 10-point lead gave us a cushion in case they did come back, but we can’t let teams do that.
“They could have easily won that game because they had the momentum at that point. We had to cut that off as soon as possible.”
Well, was Ooltewah feeling any heat when the lead shrank to 15-13?
“I don’t think so,” said Cain, who had 16 digs, three aces and two assists. “I think we knew we could come back and get them in the next game. We were determined to do that.”
And they did.
It all started with Sullivan’s pre-match speech in the locker room.
“She told us to play with all our heart, give it our all and more than likely we would win,” Cain said. “Even when they cut our lead (in the fourth set) to two points I wasn’t worried about it.”
Peigen felt Sullivan and Ison came through in the clutch, as they have all season, in the match-clinching finale.
“I really think Sloan played great,” she said. “And I thought Courtlyn was a game-changer in that fourth set.”
Johnson was left with assessing the match and referring again to the team’s roller coaster tendencies after winning the third set and dropping the fourth.
“We turn right around and drop our play and energy level back down,” she said. “Officiating was very tight, our setter gets rattled and we struggled to connect with her. We had other breakdowns as well.
“But we can compete with (Region 4) teams if we can do it mentally. We have to go in with the idea we’re the Cinderella team that’s going to upset the big dog.”
Soddy-Daisy: Haley Reynolds – 8 kills, 4 blocks; Hannah Robertson – 27 digs; Chloe Mitchell – 31 assists; Lauren Smith – 8 kills, 21 digs, 3 aces; Karigan Fulghum – 5 kills, 9 digs; Abby Walker – 5 kills, 18 digs, 2 aces; Alex Volker – 7 kills, 1 block; Grayson Brown – 2 aces.
Ooltewah: Sloan Sullivan – 11 kills, 16 digs, 2 aces; Josie Cain – 16 digs, 2 aces, 3 assists; Summer Williams – 10 digs, 4 aces; Bethany Spange – 8 kills, 15 digs, 1 ace; Hanna Matthews – 1 kill, 10 digs, 1 ace, 35 assists, 1.5 blocks; Sidney Killingsworth – 4 kills, 3 blocks; Alex Biro – 8 kills; Courtlyn Ison – 15 kills, 8.5 blocks; Kailin Higgins – 5 digs, 1 ace.
Region 3-AAA All-Tournament Team
MVP – Courtlyn Ison, Ooltewah
Ooltewah – Josie Cain, Hanna Matthews, Sloan Sullivan
Soddy-Daisy – Lauren Smith, Hannah Robertson, Abby Walker
Cookeville – Madison Espinosa, Alison Odom
Stone Memorial – Jessica Bertram, Jackie Livesay
(E-mail Larry Fleming at firstname.lastname@example.org)