CLEVELAND, Tenn. — Walker Valley's mission in its high school volleyball match Tuesday was twofold. It needed a win just as much as it didn't need another District 5-AAA loss.
The host Lady Mustangs succeeded by defeating Ooltewah 3-1 in a key early-season match.
Walker Valley had lost to Soddy-Daisy in its first district match of the season with the first three sets in that one ending 25-23, two of them in favor of the Lady Trojans. The Lady Mustangs (5-8) were coming off playing in the highly competitive Early Bird tournament in the Knoxville area, where they advanced to the top six in the Gold bracket.
"We've played so many close games and not finished," Walker Valley coach Judy Pruett said. "We knew it was going to take that one, and Ooltewah is a big district game. They've got a good team.
"They have some tough big blockers. I'm so happy we did it in four and not five."
The night started off with the Lady Owls overcoming a 6-1 start by Walker Valley and rallying to win 26-24.
"If we've not ended on 24, we've been on 22 or 23 and just could not put the ball away," Pruett said. "The girls know they can play with anybody."
The Lady Mustangs showed no ill effects after the opening set and won the next two 25-14, 25-14.
The Lady Owls rebounded and held a slim lead throughout most of the fourth game. Their lead was two before Walker Valley scored five of the last six points and escaped 25-23.
"Walker Valley played great," Ooltewah coach Elaine Peigen said. "We're just not executing the way we need to execute. We just need to work a little bit harder."
Ooltewah had beaten Rhea County in its first district match but also entered with a district loss to Bradley Central. More pivotal district matches are set for Thursday including Walker Valley at Bradley Central and the Lady Owls hosting Soddy-Daisy before they play in the Choo Choo Classic on Friday and Saturday.
"Now we've got two quick district losses we didn't need," Peigen said. "Obviously we're not playing well. As big as we are, we're not blocking. We haven't played in a tournament yet, so we'll get some games in this weekend. We're not going to stop."
Bristol Snider sparked the Lady Mustangs with 14 kills, three blocks, 13 digs and 13 assists. The leaders were Baylee Boen (15 kills), Taylor Pruett (22 digs) and Abby Campbell (22 assists, 3 aces).
Leondra Barrett topped Ooltewah with 11 kills, and Sloan Sullivan had three aces. Kelsey Chernak led in assists (27) and digs (16).
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.