Meeting for the fifth time this high school volleyball season, it would seem the players for Soddy-Daisy and Ooltewah would know the other team's tendencies quite well. Yet even though Soddy-Daisy had won three of the previous meetings, the Lady Trojans felt the need to make an alteration before the Region 3-AAA championship match they hosted Tuesday night.
Necessary or not, it worked.
A new alignment coupled with some inspired play enabled them to defeat the Lady Owls 3-1. Game scores were 25-15, 22-25, 25-19, 25-22.
Soddy-Daisy (49-9) will host a state sectional Thursday. Ooltewah (40-16) will play at the Region 4 champion.
Sectional winners will advance to the state tournament in Murfreesboro next Wednesday through Friday. Soddy-Daisy coach Lorri Johnson said she wouldn't be surprised if her team and Ooltewah meet for at least a sixth time.
"Nobody wants to go to Murfreesboro," Johnson said, meaning this week in the sectional round, "but I do believe Ooltewah can go beat them."
Johnson's move from a 6-2 to a 5-1 got more playing time for sophomore Haley Reynolds, who ended up with four kills.
Ooltewah coach Elaine Peigen put more stock in the Lady Trojans' effort than strategy.
"I think it comes down to who wants it," Peigen said of any matchup between the teams. "Soddy-Daisy was on their 'A' game. I knew they'd be ready to play. At home in a championship match, you're going to be ready to play. We've just got to keep going and see what happens."
Johnson said in addition to analyzing some video and making strategic tweaks, she felt her players were focused in the prior practice. The motivation came from the District 6 championship match, which Soddy-Daisy won, but it was 3-2 with a 16-14 last-set edge.
"We treated that like a loss," Johnson said. "We came in hungry. You've got to come in hungrier than the other team. I was very pleased with the way we handled the pressure."
Lady Trojans libero Sarah Davis had 15 digs and five aces in the title match and was chosen the tournament's most valuable player. Kelsey Nunley had 15 kills and 13 digs and Rachel Shaughnessy added 13 kills. Megan Ware chipped in with 10 digs and Olivia Holden totaled 43 assists.
Loren Bennett had 13 assists for Ooltewah, and she and Bridgette O'Brien had eight kills each. Kelsey Chernak provided a spark with 11 assists, five kills off fake sets and 13 digs. Karly Newman contributed 11 digs and four kills.
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.