Soddy-Daisy brought its high hopes for the 2011 high school volleyball season to Ooltewah on Thursday and promptly saw the first four points of the match go the Lady Owls' way. Once the wake-up call took effect, the Lady Trojans ended up taking the match 3-1.
The game scores were 25-17, 25-20, 17-25, 25-18.
Although it's the first week of the season, Soddy-Daisy already is 3-0 overall and 2-0 in rugged District 5-AAA. The Lady Trojans and Lady Owls were regular-season co-champions last year, but the Lady Trojans were top-seeded in the district tournament, by the narrowest of margins.
"It's huge," Soddy-Daisy coach Lorri Johnson said of Thursday's victory. "Last year going for the regular-season title we split, and they were five games each. It came down to a point or two.
"They've got to come to us next. It's hard to play here. The crowd was awesome. The quality of volleyball was awesome. Our district tournament is going to be a knock-down, drag-out battle."
Soddy-Daisy was trailing 5-2 before it got things turned around in the first game. Behind Kelsey Nunley's serving, the Lady Trojans had a run of six consecutive points and never trailed in the game again, although the Lady Owls managed to tie it three times. The last was at 15.
That's when Rachel Shaughnessy went to work. Soddy-Daisy's next five points in a 7-0 run were either kills or blocks by her. Nunley also served that run and finished the match with 23 points, including three aces. Shaughnessy paced the net play with 14 kills and five blocks.
The 11-11 scored in the second game was the seventh tie, and then Soddy-Daisy scored 11 of the next 16 points. It was the Lady Owls who finished strong in the third game, extending a 16-14 lead to 23-15, but the fourth got away from them early with the Lady Trojans' 9-1 start.
"They're a really good team," Ooltewah coach Elaine Peigen said. "I think it would've been closer if we had not shot ourselves in the foot so much. We've got to work on eliminating unforced errors, and we've got to work on blocking.
"The game we won we didn't miss any serves, I don't think. We played the way we should all the time. You can't drop back on your heels and let balls hit the floor."
Johnson was particularly proud of her team's backline defense. Libero Sarah Davis led the way with 40 digs.
"She did scoop up that back row," Johnson said. "She played steady and passes the ball real well. She makes it a little easier on the setters."
Olivia Holden's 23 assists topped Soddy-Daisy, and Johnson said Cassidy Hackney played a smart game while contributing 12. Alex Schafer had 10 kills, Nunley added eight and Rebecca Johnson chipped in with six and three blocks.
Ooltewah (1-1, 0-1) got nine kills each from Kianna Delaney and Leondra Barrett. Loren Bennett and Kelsey Chernak were the assists leaders with 16 each. Isabella Zdunek, who served four aces, and Karly Newman each made 16 digs for the Lady Owls.
Kelley Smiddie is a sports writer who has worked at the Times Free Press for 12 years. He covers high school sports and softball. Kelley’s hometown is Chattanooga, and he graduated from Brainerd High School and graduated Chattanooga State and UTC. Contact Kelley at 423-757-6653 or firstname.lastname@example.org.