The seedings held up.
Pre-tournament favorites Ooltewah and Soddy-Daisy captured semifinal victories Tuesday in the District 5-AAA volleyball tournament at Ooltewah High School and roared into Wednesday’s championship match knowing both also had secured spots in next week’s Region 3 tourney.
Top-seeded Ooltewah (39-10), the regular-season champion, knocked off Cleveland, 3-0. Second-seeded Soddy-Daisy clipped East Hamilton, 3-1.
The set scores for the Lady Owls were 25-15, 25-21, 25-23.
“I want to keep this going,” said Ooltewah’s Courtlyn Ison, the district’s co-player of the year. “We want to go to state and win. We have several goals and one was going undefeated in district, and we did that (the Lady Owls were 12-0 in league play). There’s more out there for us.”
For the Lady Trojans (41-16) the scores were 25-21, 25-22, 15-25, 25-23.
“I’m so happy I’m shaking,” Soddy-Daisy’s Abby Walker said. “We played our hearts out and so did East Hamilton. We really wanted this and it happened for us.”
Both teams advanced to Wednesday’s championship match at 6 p.m. in Ooltewah’s Ed Foster Gymnasium. The winner will host next week’s region tournament, which pits District 5 against District 6.
The Lady Owls now have won 39 of 46 sets in the district regular season and one round of the tournament, and the only team to push them to five sets was Soddy-Daisy on Sept. 12. The Lady Trojans have won seven straight matches and 13 of their last 14.
With Ison scoring five of the first six points, the Lady Owls manufactured a 7-1 lead in the first set, pushed it to 21-10 and eventually won it by eight points.
The second set went back and forth and Ooltewah built an 18-14 lead when Ison had a tip, kill and block on successive points. Cleveland’s Aneisha Barber’s well-placed tap pulled the Lady Blue Raiders within 21-19, but Ooltewah scored two of the next three points – both by Hanna Matthews – for a 23-20 advantage.
Sloan Sullivan scored on a deep shot to the corner, Cleveland’s Marissa Langford drilled a kill, but the Lady Raiders’ Amber Morman’s shot sailed long to end the set.
The third set was hotly contested.
It was tied at 7-7 but the Lady Raiders (22-23) put up five straight points – two each by Addie Strode and Allison Botts – for a 12-7 lead. Strode’s tip minutes later had Cleveland up 15-12. Ooltewah tied it up at 15-all on Ison’s tip, Sidney Killingsworth had a kill, Ison came back with a block, Kailin Higgins had a service point and Sullivan added a kill to cap a 7-0 run that produced a 19-15 lead.
Cleveland scored two straight points to move within 19-17 and the Lady Owls had four straight miscues – Sullivan’s shot sailed long and Ison had a misfire and a kill that went long and a team error followed that. Suddenly, the Lady Raiders were level at 20-20.
Ooltewah, which is gunning for its third state tournament berth in four years, scored five of the next eight points, the last coming on Killingsworth’s kill, to win the match.
“We felt a little pressure in the third set,” said Ison, the district co-player of the year, who posted 16 kills and three blocks, “and that’s sometimes good, but the 2-0 cushion was also good. Really, there was more pressure on Cleveland because they were down 0-2. We are thrilled to beat them in three (sets) and put them away. We’re ready for (Wednesday).”
Ooltewah coach Elaine Peigen praised her team’s defense.
“Cleveland is a great team and we knew this would be a good match,” Peigen said. “Marissa Langford is a talented player and I don’t know why somebody isn’t recruiting her. We’ve studied their team and decided to cheat her way so we could hopefully get a jump on her.”
Langford, who is deadly crossing the court in one direction and slamming home laser kills the other way, had 15 kills, 10 digs and 1.5 blocks. In an opening-round win over Bradley Central, Langford had 33 kills and scored nine of Cleveland’s final 13 points in the fifth and deciding set.
“At least we know we’re going to region,” Peigen said. “But we want the No. 1 seed and we have to beat a really great Soddy-Daisy team to do that. This is what my girls have worked so hard for since July.”
Soddy-Daisy, which lost in the district semifinals a year ago after reaching the state tournament in 2011 and 2010 with 53- and 50-wins seasons, had to fight East Hamilton tooth-and-nail, but managed to win the first two sets by four and three points, respectively.
In the first, the Lady Hurricanes (25-17) were down 17-13, but tied the set at 19-19. Soddy-Daisy scored four straight points and then finished the set with back-to-back points from Lauren Smith’s on a kill and block.
Nursing a 23-22 lead in the second set, Smith did the same thing – score the team’s final two points on kills, the last a deep blast into the right corner.
“We always like a good start,” Soddy-Daisy coach Lorri Johnson said. “I feel good about where we are and we’re playing hard.”
East Hamilton, which played in Class AA state tournaments in 2011 and 2012 before moving up to Class AAA this year, didn’t like its predicament after two sets, so it decided to do something about it.
With Emma Lenoir – who shared player of the year honors with Ison -- scoring six points the Lady Hurricanes jumped out to a 10-1 lead and eventually pushed the margin to 16-3 on Somer Batten’s tip. The Lady Trojans never got closer than seven points the rest of the way, and Miranda Roberson’s kill off a Lenoir set sealed the win.
The fifth set was nothing short of brilliant volleyball by both teams.
Over the first 40 points, the biggest lead by either team was two points on eight occasions.
Down 20-18, Lenoir drilled a monster kill that slammed into Smith’s face to cut the lead to one. Smith went to the sideline for a quick check-up and returned to the court. Mad.
“You don’t want Lauren mad,” Johnson said. “She came back with an answer. She was mad and determined to finish this thing off and we got it done.”
Smith, who finished with 30 digs, 13 kills, two assists and two aces, was breathing fire when play resumed and her teammates fed off her emotions.
Haley Reynolds scored on a kill, Alex Volker dropped a tip, a Lenoir return shot went long, a Lenoir kill was blocked and the Lady Trojans had the set’s largest lead at 24-19.
East Hamilton’s Somer Batten had a kill, Sydney Harris blocked Walker’s kill, Batten scored on another kill, Soddy-Daisy made an error and the Lady Hurricanes trailed 24-23.
Karigan Fulghum’s tip fell in and Soddy-Daisy nailed down the hard-fought victory.
“Now we’re in the championship and have nothing to lose so we can go out and just play volleyball,” said Walker, who had 20 digs, 11 kills, four assists and one ace. “I thought we played great tonight and this takes a little pressure off because we’re also going to region. That’s a relief.”
East Hamilton coach Kristy Lenoir was obviously disappointed.
“We battled hard, we worked hard, it just didn’t go our way,” she said. “Soddy-Daisy came out stronger at first than we did and you’ve got to play well from start to finish. I think that affected the ending.”
Stott felt bad for the Lady Hurricanes seniors.
“We had spirit and motivation to fight for them,” she said. “We really wanted to win for them because they’ve been our role models.”
Semifinals (Set Scores)
Ooltewah defeated Cleveland 25-15, 25-21, 25-23
Soddy-Daisy defeated East Hamilton 25-21, 25-22, 15-25, 25-23
6 p.m. – No. 1 Ooltewah (39-10) vs No. 2 Soddy-Daisy (41-16)
Ooltewah: Sloan Sullivan – 8 kills, 13 digs; Josie Cane – 1 kill, 19 digs; Summer Williams – 3 digs; Bethany Spange – 5 kills, 11 digs, 1 ace; Hanna Matthews – 1 kill, 6 digs, 35 assists, 1.5 blocks; Sidney Killingsworth – 4 kills, 1.5 blocks; Alex Biro – 7 kills, 3 digs; Courtlyn Ison – 16 kills, 3 blocks; Kailin Higgins – 2 digs, 2 aces.
Cleveland: Kills – Marissa Langford 15, Allison Botts 5, Addie Strode 3, Amber Morman 1, Aneisha Barber 1, Kellee Geren 1; Digs – Eva Wilhelm 23, K.K. Clements 12, Langford 10, Kayla Lee 7, Geren 5, Botts 2, Barber 2, Strode 1, Morgan Moffett 1, Sammie Kate Eason 1; Blocks – Langford 1.5, Botts 1, Geren .5; Assists – Geren 23, Wilhelm 1; Aces – Clements 2, Wilhelm 1, K. Lee 1, Lauren Lee 1.
Soddy-Daisy: Haley Reynolds – 6 kills, 7 blocks, 4 digs; Chloe Mitchell – 9 kills, 29 assists, 18 digs; Hannah Robertson – 1 kill, 2 aces, 23 digs; Lauren Smith – 13 kills, 2 aces, 2 assists, 30 digs; Karigan Fulghum – 3 kills, 3 aces, 2 assists, 16 digs; Abby Walker – 11 kills, 1 ace, 4 assists, 20 digs; Alex Volker – 4 kills, 2 blocks, 1 dig; Grayson Brown – 2 aces, 3 digs.
East Hamilton: Sydney Harris – 30 assists, 1 kill, 17 digs, 2 blocks; Briley Considine – 7 kills, 23 digs, 1 ace; Miranda Roberson – 1 kill, .5 blocks; Samantha Headrick – 8 digs; Emma Lenoir – 28 kills, 22 digs, 11 assists, 1 ace, 1.5 blocks; Somer Batten – 3 kills, 7 digs, 1.5 blocks; Meredith Stott – 10 kills, 1.5 blocks; Kris Joo – 28 digs, 5 aces.
(E-mail Larry Fleming at email@example.com)