CLEVELAND, Tenn. — With the regular season ending in a three-way tie, it took nearly two hours to determine that Ooltewah would be the top seed for the District 5-AAA volleyball tournament.
Coincidentally enough, that's about how long it took for Kelsey Chernak and the Lady Owls to distance themselves from the others Wednesday.
Ooltewah returned to the final but enjoyed different results from last year by defeating Bradley Central 3-1 for the Lady Owls' first district championship since the reclassification in 2009.
The two teams both qualify for the Region 3-AAA tournament to be played at Cookeville on Monday. The Lady Owls (32-18) will play District 6 runner-up Coffee County, while the Bearettes (28-13) will battle Cookeville (21-23).
The Lady Owls fell to Soddy-Daisy in five games in last year's title match.
"We really wanted to get this win this year after being upset last season," said Chernak, who had eight kills, 31 assists and 15 digs and was named the tournament most valuable player. "We knew there was a lot of competition in this district. We had to play hard and knew that whoever wanted this more would win it."
The Lady Owls claimed the first two games 25-20 and 25-19, rallying from a deficit in the second. They were two points from claiming the title in the third game, but Bradley scored the final seven points, led by four consecutive kills by junior Brooke Copeland, who finished with a game-high 23. The Lady Owls claimed the fourth game 25-17.
Leondra Barrett had a team-high 15 kills for Ooltewah and Courtlyn Ison had seven kills and 7.5 blocks.
"I don't ever get comfortable in these matches. If you get relaxed, you're in trouble," Ooltewah coach Elaine Peigen said. "I thought everybody contributed and we never lost our focus."
Bradley coach Christy McElhaney felt her team lacked the intensity of its five-game victory over Soddy-Daisy on Tuesday. An Achilles' heel all season had been the Bearettes' ability to serve and receive, and it was a problem again Wednesday.
"We never had a momentum push to change the tide," she said. "We grabbed little leads, but we couldn't push away.
"I told the girls not to hang their heads. It's a long time since we've had a team in the region tournament, and we're going to fight hard on Monday."
Bradley's Rebecca Reuter had 18 kills for the Bearettes, and Kayla Arp had 37 assists.