Ooltewah Beats Columbia Central, 3-1, In AAA Volleyball Sectional

Lady Owls (44-10) Return To State Touney; Soddy-Daisy Falls To Siegel

Thursday, October 17, 2013 - by Larry Fleming

(Story Has Been Updated)

Ooltewah has punched its ticket back to the Class AAA state volleyball tournament.

The host Lady Owls, who already had notched district and region tourney titles at Ed Foster Gymnasium, defeated Columbia Central, 3-1, in the Sectional on Thursday and earned their second straight trip -- eighth overall -- to the state tourney that starts Wednesday in Murfreesboro.


0001pt;">The set scores were 25-23, 25-13, 20-25, 25-16.


“I’m overwhelmed,” junior Courtlyn Ison said. “I’m so happy I can’t stop smiling.”


Meanwhile, Soddy-Daisy’s Lady Trojans, beaten by Ooltewah in district and region tourney title games, lost to Siegel, 3-0, in Murfreesboro. Set scores were 25-14, 25-16, 25-17.


The Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association posted the Class AAA brackets Friday afternoon and the Lady Owls will play Siegel next Wednesday at 2:30 p.m. Eastern at Middle Tennessee State University.


If Ooltewah wins that game it would draw the Brentwood (53-3)-Collierville winner at 5:30 p.m. Should Ooltewah dropthe opener, they would play the Brentwood-Collierville loser at 8:30 p.m.


Other teams in the bracket at Farragut, Ravenwood (44-4), Dobyns-Bennett (39-9) and Houston.


Ooltewah (44-10), which finished second in the 2001 and 2007 state tournaments, was coming off its 10th Region 3-AAA title and had to clear one more hurdle against the Region 4-AAA runners-up to reach one of its primary goals for the season.


Ooltewah fought hard to win the first two sets, but the Lady Lions (32-13) kept the match alive by taking advantage of another frustrating third-set lull by the Lady Owls.


Columbia led 2-1 in the fourth set, but Ooltewah built an 11-4 lead on Bethany Spange’s perfectly placed shot down the middle. Alex Biro’s tip pushed the margin to 14-6 before the Lady Lions, led by 2012 all-state players Maya Horner and Lexie Duncan, scored back-to-back points.


Sloan Sullivan and Ison scored on power kills and Ooltewah had a 16-8 lead. Columbia scored three straight points and closed the gap to 16-11. From there the Lady Owls outscored Columbia 6-3 and had the Lady Lions on the ropes at 22-13.


In that key six-point burst, Ison scored on a tip and two blocks, freshman Sidney Killingsworth – she was celebrating her 16th birthday – recorded a kill and shared a block with Ison, who finished with 7.5 blocks after getting 8.5 in the region title match.


“Early we didn’t do what we’re capable of doing with our blocking,” said Ison, the district and region tournament MVP – she shared the regular season District 5-AAA Player of the Year honor with East Hamilton’s Emma Lenoir.


“Near the end we were in a huddle and I said, ‘I’m going to do my best to block some shots.’ Our front row started to pick it up and we got a lot more blocks.”


Columbia coach Laken Stutts walked away impressed with Ooltewah’s performance.


“Ooltewah is a lot tougher than what we see during the season,” she said. “They’re pretty much the best we’ve seen. They have a very quick offense, much quicker than other teams we played and it was tough getting our blocking adjusted to that.”


The Lady Owls’ defensive attention was mainly directed at Horner, an extremely athletic senior outside hitter. Her power shots were equal to any player on Ooltewah’s side of the net.


Ooltewah got an up-close look at Horner when the two teams squared off at the Mid-Tennessee Classic in Franklin, Tenn., earlier this month in a match the Lady Owls won, 2-0.


“Tonight, we set out defense to go where she went,” Ison said. “She’s a great hitter. She could hit over us, around us, through us, whatever she had to do for a kill. Getting a block is hard sometimes and when you get one it’s really awesome, especially with a kill-block. It also works against the other team and that’s a huge advantage for us.


“You can see their heads drop. I love blocking. It’s so fun.”


Horner was most effective in the first three sets and, along with fellow senior Hanna Slatton, kept the Lady Lions within striking distance.


“They were cheating out on me because they knew the ball was coming to me every time,” Horner said. “It was hard trying to hit around that.”


Horner, who helped the Lady Lions open the season with 15 consecutive wins, finished with 17 kills, 14 digs, three blocks and two aces.


“She’s a huge percentage of what we try to do offensively,” Stutts said, “but even more than her skill and talent we rely more on her leadership. She motivates everybody. She’s a phenomenal player.”


Ooltewah coach Elaine Peigen knew that before the match started.


“She is their go-to girl,” said Peigen, who is in her 21st season as Ooltewah’s head coach. “She beat our block in the first two sets. We were cheating to her, but just weren’t getting there. Our middle blocker would cheat over automatically trying to keep her from hitting and force someone else to beat us.”


In the first set, Columbia had a 6-5 lead, but Ooltewah worked into a 15-11 advantage before Horner caught fire. The four-time All-District 8-AAA selection – she was the MVP this season – scored five straight points on a tip and four kills and the Lady Lions were down 19-16.


Later, back-to-back kills by Slatton pulled Columbia within 20-19. Ooltewah countered with an Ison tip and mega-slam by Sullivan a two-point edge. Up by one, the Lady Owls ended the set when Horner’s overhead shot was wide.


Ooltewah never trailed in the second set and led by 10 at 18-8 on another Ison kill. The lead was 22-10 on Summer Williams’ service point and from 22-13 the Lady Owls went up two sets to none on kills by Killingsworth and Sullivan and Spange’s deep shot just inside the baseline.


Much of Ooltewah’s offensive success centered on the play of setter Hanna Matthews, who had 48 assists in the match.


That’s never lost on Peigen.


“She is one of the best setters I’ve had the opportunity to coach,” said Peigen, who arrived at Ooltewah in 1993, “and she’s just a sophomore. She’s special. She’s the whole package as far as defense, being a leader on the court and the quarterback of the team.”


Said Matthews: “I’m pretty good.”


Spange was very complimentary of Matthews’ play around the net.


“She’s really good,” said Spange, who along with Sullivan are the only seniors on the Lady Owls roster. “She’s consistent, moves the ball around and, well, she’s great.”


Columbia spotted Ooltewah five points in the third set, but fought back take a 10-9 lead. The Lady Lions went up 13-11 only to see the match tied at 15, 19 and 20. Columbia kept the avoided a sweep when Slatton had a kill, Horner ripped a cross-court winner, Ooltewah had an error, Duncan scored on a kill and Sullivan’s kill went long.


“We felt so like we were going to win the third set, too, and got a little crazy in the head,” Matthews said. “We had to get our focus back.”


Said Stutts, of the match: “We dug ourselves a hole in the first two games, knew we had to come back and we did. In the fourth game, we dug another hole and got a little discouraged. My girls fought hard, but just ran out of time.”


In the end, the Lady Lions bussed back home and started thinking about next year.


“This was my last match,” Horner said. “I’m going to miss it. I hope next year’s team does really well.”


Ooltewah began making plans for a trip to the state tournament.


“This is exciting,” said Killingsworth, the lone rookie on the squad. “I went to Hunter Middle and would come over here and watch them play. I didn’t think I would be going to state in my first year, but we are going.”


In Murfreesboro, Soddy-Daisy ran into a buzz saw against Siegel (31-10), the Region 4-AAA champion after finishing second to Columbia in the District 6-AAA tournament.


“Siegel played at a higher level – just like Ooltewah – and we did not,” Lady Trojans coach Lorri Johnson said.


Soddy-Daisy finished 42-19, five of the losses coming against the Lady Owls.




Columbia Central: Maya Horner – 6 points, 2 aces, 17 kills, 3 blocks, 14 digs; Lexie Duncan – 8 points, 3 aces, 40 assists, 2 kills, 2 blocks, 7 digs; Hanna Slatton – 9 points, 19 kills, 4 digs; Sabrina Estrada – 6 points, 11 digs, 10 receptions.


Ooltewah: Sloan Sullivan – 13 kills, 11 digs, 1 ace; Josie Cain – 12 digs, 1 assist; Summer Williams – 10 digs, 1 ace; Bethany Spange – 7 kills, 8 digs, 1 block; Hanna Matthews – 1 kill, 11 digs, 48 assists, 2.5 blocks; Sidney Killingsworth – 9 kills, 4 digs, 2.5 blocks; Alex Biro – 9 kills; Courtlyn Ison – 16 kills, 2 digs, 7.5 blocks; Kailin Higgins – 2 digs.


Soddy-Daisy: Haley Reynolds – 6 kills, 3 blocks; Alex Volker – 5 kills, 2 blocks; Karigan Fulghum – 15 digs, 4 kills; Grayson Brown – 3 aces; Abby Walker – 3 kills, 13 digs; Hannah Robertson – 7 digs; Lauren Smith – 10 digs; Chloe Mitchell – 10 assists.


(E-mail Larry Fleming at larryfleming44@gmail.com)



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