Soddy-Daisy’s Lady Trojans shook off an up-and-down performance in last weekend’s Early Bird tournament at Oak Ridge and throttled Cleveland, 3-0, in a District 5-AAA volleyball match Tuesday at Soddy-Daisy High School.
The Lady Trojans (8-4, 2-1) swept the match with set scores of 25-18, 25-22 and 25-15.
Abby Walker and Karigan Fulghum combined for 30 digs and 18 kills to lead the Lady Trojans. Chloe Mitchell led Soddy-Daisy with 24 assists and Lauren Smith was credited with 21 digs. All four players are seniors.
“I think we played a lot better tonight than we did this weekend at Oak Ridge,” said Fulghum, who recorded 14 digs, nine kills, two aces and one stuff block. “There were times we just fell apart when we didn’t get our serves in. It was rough. We played together as a team better and had much better serving against Cleveland. We had a lot more energy.”
That was apparent as the Lady Trojans, whose only district loss was a five-set heartbreaker against East Hamilton, battled to beat Cleveland in the first two sets before cruising to a 10-point win in the finale.
“Our coach (Lorri Johnson) always wants us to learn from our mistakes and fix our weaknesses,” said Walker, who 16 digs, nine kills, five assists and one ace. “That’s why we go to all these tournaments. We play some great teams. We won all three of our pool games and on Saturday we were in with all the big teams and we were shaky at times and then we had great play at times.
“Our play tonight feels a lot better. I think we definitely got better over the weekend.”
The veteran Johnson took a hard assessment of her team’s early season statistical showing at Monday’s practice, pinpointing three main areas of concern.
“Our serving percentage wasn’t where it needed to be,” she said. “We were having too many blocking errors at the net. And the other kill was our kill percentage. We can dig the heck out of the ball and play defense all the way to the bleachers, but we weren’t putting the ball down.
“Since we’re not a tall team, we have to use power up on top and snap the ball down and hit it quick on our kills. It takes that and smart shots. Some of our kills tonight were going long because we weren’t snapping the ball. We have to run a lot of low sets and in between blockers and those things take a lot more work. We’re getting there.”
Cleveland coach Patricia Flowers wasn’t that thrilled with her team’s effort against the Lady Trojans either.
“I didn’t expect our girls to play as flat as they did,” said Flowers, who watched as her squad was swept by Ooltewah in the district opener last week. “I don’t feel like Soddy-Daisy is that much better than us. I think we’re just as competitive, but my team is waiting on someone else to light their fire rather than lighting their own fire. That’s probably the worst we’ve played all season and it was a little disappointing after a good game against Rhea County on Monday.”
In the first set against Soddy-Daisy, the Lady Blue Raiders (9-4, 1-2) went up 3-2, but Soddy-Daisy scored five straight points – two by Walker and three by Fulghum – to take the upper hand.
Cleveland tied the set at 13-all on when Emma Flowers launched a scorching kill. Back-to-back errors by Soddy-Daisy’s Amber Hatfield and Lauren Smith allowed Cleveland to pull within 19-18.
Soddy-Daisy scored the final six points of the opening set to win going away. Hannah Robertson started the six-point run with a power shot, Chloe Mitchell had a left-handed tap and a service point and Fulghum sandwiched a kill and tip around Mitchell’s shot that hit the sideline in the decisive spree.
In set two, Cleveland had a 14-11 lead after Amber Morman’s kill, but Addie Strode’s tap tied the game at 16-16. Flowers’ net shot gave the Lady Trojans the first of four straight points. Fulghum added a kill, Strode netted a shot and Flowers’ kill sailed long, giving Soddy-Daisy a 20-16 advantage.
The set was tied at 21-all when the Lady Trojans outscored the Lady Blue Raiders 5-1 down the stretch for the win. Fulghum had a kill and an ace for the final two points.
Soddy-Daisy didn’t give Cleveland much of a chance in the final set, racing out to a 7-2 lead. Mitchell’s service point and Smith’s perfectly place winner in the back left corner gave Soddy-Daisy a 17-9 lead.
The Lady Trojans were up 22-12 and Cleveland miscues provided them with their final three points for the victory.
“We had moments of excellence at Oak Ridge,” Johnson said. “On Friday we got better as the night went along and we beat (Knoxville) Webb in two sets. Then Saturday came around and we were still sleepy. We dropped a match, won one, and lost the next one and lost to Walker Valley – we weren’t sharp in that one either – in the finals of the Silver bracket.
“But the girls played better tonight.”
Flowers is hoping she can say that about her Lady Blue Raiders soon.
“Finding an athlete who has a lot of grit and drive is tough,” she said. “My voice is shot. I coach them on every point and sometimes I feel like I’m giving more effort than the girls are giving on the court. That’s frustrating when I’ve seen them play at their best and with a lot of confidence.”
Chloe Mitchell – 6 kills, 2 aces, 2 stuff blocks, 24 assists
Abby Walker – 16 digs, 5 assists, 9 kills, 1 ace
Karigan Fulghum – 14 digs, 9 kills, 2 aces, 1 stuff block
Lauren Smith – 21 digs, 4 assists, 2 blocks, 2 kills
Hannah Robertson – 19 digs, 4 kills
Amber Hatfield – 4 digs
Alex Volker – 2 stuff blocks, 1 kill
Gracie Ratledge – 1 stuff block
Kellee Geren – 25 assists, 16 digs, 5 kills, 2 blocks
Kayla Lee – 41 digs.
Lauren Lee – 32 digs
Emma Flowers – 17 digs, 8 kills, 5 assists
Allison Botts – 10 kills, 7 digs
Addie Strode – 7 kills, 1 ace, 1 dig
Morgan Moffett – 6 digs, 2 blocks
Amber Morman – 4 kills, 2 digs
(E-mail Larry Fleming at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @larryfleming44)