CLEVELAND, Tenn. – Ooltewah probably got more of a fight from Bradley Central on Thursday than the Lady Owls expected.
Although Ooltewah posted a 3-1 District 5-3A victory, the Bearettes took the first set and battled hard before falling in four sets. Set scores were 25-19, 22-25, 22-25 and 21-25.
“We’re building and we’re getting there,” Bradley coach Christie McElhaney said.
“Everybody talks about how young we are and maybe we’ll do something next year. Why can’t we do it this year? They were close tonight. We have to stay focused and keep battling.”
The Lady Owls (8-10, 3-2) tied the match at 1-1 and then used strong scoring streaks to give themselves some breathing room during the rest of the match.
The Bearettes (11-13, 1-5) took advantage of Ooltewah errors and strong front-row play to go on an 8-1 run and grab a 14-9 lead. The Lady Owls were on the short end of a 16-13 score minutes later and that’s when senior Cheyanne Sales stepped up her game.
Sales, cranked up her game with three kills – she had 16 in the match – and two aces while Alyssa White and Jensen Davis each added a kill in the 7-3 spurt. Bradley’s second and third points in that stretch resulted from Ooltewah errors.
“We do a lot of good things and then we do some bad things,” Ooltewah coach Elaine Peigen said. “We’re still making way too many unforced errors, but Bradley is a good team and they fought us. It was a good win for us.”
After a Bradley timeout, freshman Mary B. Smith knocked a slap shot down to tie the set at 20-all. Smith finished with eight kills, five digs and three blocks.
With Sales out of the rotation and sitting on the sideline, Jensen Davis delivered a kill; sophomore Caty Hughes added a kill and White served up two aces to push the Lady Owls’ lead to 24-20. Bradley’s Kaitlin Hullender smacked one of her four kills and Hughes’ shot was off the mark and the Bearettes were still alive at 24-22.
Hughes ended with a team-high 10 blocks.
“Caty’s play at the net was much better tonight than it has been,” Peigen said. “We’ve worked on her blocking a lot and we’ve also worked on her routes to try and get her in motion. She came through when we needed her tonight.”
Said Hughes, a 6-footer, “I was just trying to do my best on the front row.”
Madalyn Mills’ kill closed out the set and gave Ooltewah a 2-1 lead. Mills had yet another solid stat line: 20 assists, 11 digs, one ace and five kills.
In Set 4, Bradley Central jumped out to an 8-2 lead.
Ooltewah then scored 12 straight points to race out to a 14-8 advantage. Sales a kill and three aces; Hughes dropped in a pair of two-handed taps and another block; White scored on a kill and deep shot to the right corner and Davis had one of her 10 kills.
“The first couple sets we just weren’t playing all that well together,” Sales said. “Then we started to put it together and I started stepping up and doing what I needed to do.”
Said McElhaney, “If you’re going to beat Ooltewah, you have to control Sales and make them scramble for defense. When you give them the easy balls in play they’re going to set her up. She’s hard to block and you can’t rely on doing that very often.”
With the Lady Owls up 17-16, the Bearettes took advantage of four straight errors to take a three-point lead. Ooltewah scored twice on a Sales kill and Addison Duplantis ace. Bradley was up 22-19 when it used two Ooltewah errors and an Autumn Allen ace to take the early 1-0 lead.
The Lady Owls were up 18-10 in the second set, but committed four errors and Bradley’s Kelsey Carman, who had five kills and 17 digs, fired an ace to pull to within 18-15. The Bearettes were down 21-17 when Ooltewah made three more errors. The Lady Owls stopped the skid with Davis’ slap shot. Bradley’s Smith scored on a tap and Mills countered with a kill for the Lady Owls.
Smith blocked Ooltewah’s Kaylee Jamagan’s slap shot; Sales knocked down a kill and then teamed with White for a set-ending block and a 2-1 lead.
“Bradley is a better team now and we could have played better at times,” Mills said. “We know we have to be mentally tough in matches like this and just push through.”
Ariel Reid – 26 digs
Cheyanne Sales – 16 kills, 1 block, 3 digs, 7 aces
Madalyn Mills – 20 assists, 11 digs, 1 ace, 5 kills
Jensen Davis – 10 kills, 2 blocks, 15 digs, 1 ace
Alyssa White – 6 kills, 13 assists, 9 digs, 3 aces
Caty Hughes – 10 blocks
Hannah Irwin – 4 kills, 3 digs
Dana Wells – 8 digs
Kierstyn Viola – 5 kills, 1 dig
Ashlan Crittenden – 1 kill, 3 aces, 10 digs, 1 block
Taylor White – 28 digs
Amelia Reuter – 2 kills, 1 dig
Mary Smith – 8 kills, 5 digs, 3 blocks
Kelsey Carman – 5 kills, 1 ace, 17 digs, 1 block
Kaitlin Hullender – 4 kills, 3 digs
Riley Sermons – 1 ace, 18 digs, 16 assists
Cassidy Lowe – 6 digs
Autumn Allen – 1 ace, 4 digs, 9 assists
Abigail Leonard – 1 ace, 1 dig
(Contact Larry Fleming at email@example.com and on Twitter @larryfleming44)