Playing their first five-set match of the season, Ooltewah’s Lady Owls rallied from a 2-1 deficit and defeated Soddy-Daisy, 3-2, Thursday night to keep their stranglehold on first place in District 5-AAA volleyball action.
Ooltewah (21-2, 7-0) beat Soddy-Daisy (23-9, 4-3) for the third time this season, twice in district play. The two rivals also met on Aug. 31 in the Choo Choo tournament semifinals. The Lady Owls have won 8-of-12 sets in those matches.
“Soddy-Daisy came out with a purpose and that was to beat us,” said Ooltewah sophomore Alex Biro, who had 11 kills, 4.5 blocks and one dig in the match played at Soddy-Daisy High. “We’re 7-0 in the district now and that makes a lot of people come after us because we’re the team to beat. That’s an honor.”
The Lady Owls, who reached the Class AAA state tournament in Murfreesboro last season, trailed 2-1, but stretched a 10-8 lead into a 25-13 victory with a 14-5 run – Soddy-Daisy had five unforced errors in the spree, including a netted serve on the final point – to close the set and force the winner-take-all fifth set in a hot, stuffy gymnasium.
With the momentum back on its side of the court, Ooltewah achieved all three spotlighted goals in the fifth set, said senior Sloan Sullivan, who was credited with 12 digs, 8 kills and one ace.
“We always want to be the first to five, first to 10 and first to 15 in a fifth set like that,” she said. “Some might have thought we couldn’t do it, but once we got the momentum going we fed off each other.”
Soddy-Daisy, one of several teams in a logjam for second place in the district, was within 4-3 in the match-deciding fifth set, but the Lady Owls went on a 6-2 run to open a 10-5 advantage. The Lady Trojans battled back to tie the set at 11-all.
Biro had a soft-touch winner at the net only to give up two points as Soddy-Daisy gained a 13-12 lead. Biro came up with a kill and a point off a block at the net to push the Lady Owls into a shaky 14-13 lead.
Soddy-Daisy netted a shot and Ooltewah had reason to celebrate after snapping the Lady Trojans’ 10-match winning streak.
“This will help us for the district tournament,” Sullivan said. “Soddy-Daisy is our biggest competition and it’s always good to beat them. It gives us even more confidence.”
Veteran Ooltewah coach Elaine Peigen said having to play the first five-set match of the season could only help her squad.
“I think it will give them the confidence that they can win a close match,” Peigen said. “Our district is tough and Soddy-Daisy was ready to play a great match, and they did. We had a good first set but missed way too many serves in the second and third sets and had too many unforced errors.
“When we were down 2-1 our backs were to the wall and the energy had changed. It was nice to see that our girls weren’t intimidated. They never gave up.”
Ooltewah took the first set 25-19, breaking away from a 17-17 deadlock.
In the second set, Karigan Fulghum, who had seven kills, 24 digs and 1 ace, had a kill shot to tie it at 2-2.
Over the next few minutes, Ooltewah either scored or gave away points on missed shots or errors and the Lady Trojans zipped into a 14-10 lead. It stayed close the rest of the way and Abby Walker’s soft-touch putaway that hit the sideline marker gave Soddy-Daisy a 25-22 win.
The Lady Trojans built an early lead in the third set, but the Lady Owls wouldn’t go away.
Soddy-Daisy went up 18-14 when Sullivan netted a slam.
Ooltewah fought its way into a 22-20 lead only to see the Lady Trojans score the final five points, the winner coming on Fulghum’s serve.
“We gave the fans their money’s worth,” Lady Trojans coach Lorri Johnson said. “This match had all the feel of a district final, but there’s a lot of season left. I’m proud of the way the girls fought. We’re catching them (Lady Trojans) little by little.
“Last year there was a three-way tie for first, but Ooltewah is sitting on top right now. This year there could be a six-way tie for second.”
What was the biggest factor of the match?
“Ooltewah is pretty big and we’re short,” Johnson said. “We had to work our rears off on defense. It’s not now that matters. It matters in October. We have nine losses now and three are to Ooltewah. I’d like to stay in second place and stay away from them until the district finals.”
Sloan Sullivan -- 8 kills, 12 digs, 1 ace
Josie Cain -- 25 digs, 2 assists, 3 kills, 2 aces
Courtlyn Ison -- 12 kills, 1 dig, 4 blocks
Alex Biro -- 11 kills, 1 dig, 4.5 blocks
Summer Williams -- 11 digs, 2 aces, 1 assist
Bethany Spange -- 12 digs, 6 kills, 1 ace, .5 blocks, 1 assist
Hanna Matthews -- 14 digs, 1 kill, 43 assists, .5 blocks, 2 aces
Sidney Killingsworth -- 12 kills, 1.5 blocks, 1 dig
Emily Grace Thompson -- 2 digs
Karigan Fulghum -- 24 digs, 7 kills, 1 ace
Hannah Robertson -- 22 digs
Lauren Smith -- 21 digs, 7 kills, 2 aces, 1 block
Chloe Mitchell -- 16 digs, 3 kills, 2 blocks
Abby Walker -- 11 digs, 8 kills, 2 blocks
Alex Volker -- 7 kills, 2 digs, 1 block
Whitley Phipps -- 1 dig
(E-mail Larry Fleming at email@example.com)