Area All-District Teams
* 5-AAA: Rachel Burke, McMinn County; Rachel Lawhorn, Madison Pruett, Walker Valley; Brooke Copeland, Rebecca Reuter, Bradley Central; Kellee Geren, Marissa Langford, Cleveland; Briley Considine, Sydney Harris, Emma Lenoir (Co-POY), East Hamilton; Chloe Mitchell, Haley Reynolds, Hannah Robertson, Soddy-Daisy; Hanna Matthews, Sloan Sullivan, Courtlyn Ison (Co-POY), Ooltewah.
* 7-AA: Kaitlin Davis, Sequatchie County; Summer Shipley, Grundy County; Emily Dodson, Mackenzie Smith, Bledsoe County; Stephanie Bouchard, Mallory Hein, Notre Dame; Erin Jackson, Riley Visser, Taylor Youell, Chattanooga Christian; Taelor Kellum, Aryn Sanders, Amanda Thielges, Signal Mountain.
* 6-AA: (Chooses all-tournament team only)
* 6-A: Katie Rogers, Richard Hardy; Shayla Vandergriff, Marion County; Kelsea Wilson, South Pittsburg; Tanika Gholston, Whitwell; Carolyn Walling, Van Buren; Annie Marr, Savannah Walker, Lookout Valley; Mikayla Crowder, Megan Storey, Brooke Welch, Sale Creek.
* 5-A: V.C. Crittenden, CGLA; Christine Kennedy, Copper Basin; Alexandra Smith, Serena Turner, Grace Academy; Caroline Couch, MacKenzie Harris, Silverdale Baptist Academy; Brooke Mitchell, Brittany Patmon, Brianna Taylor, Arts & Sciences; Katie Delay, Sarah Emrey, Lauren Van Eaton, Kristen Reynolds (MVP), Boyd-Buchanan. Coach of the Year: Samantha Everett, Arts & Sciences.
Area TSSAA region schedules
3-AAA at Ooltewah: 6--Stone Memorial vs. Ooltewah; 7:30--Soddy-Daisy vs. Cookeville
3-AA at Polk County: 4:30--McMinn Central vs. Central; 6--Red Bank vs. Polk County; 7:30--Championship
3-A at Sale Creek: 4:30--Arts & Sciences vs. Sale Creek; 6--Lookout Valley vs. Boyd-Buchanan; 7:30--Championship
3-AAA at Ooltewah: 6:30--Soddy-Daisy-Cookeville winner vs. Stone Memorial-Ooltewah winner, championship
4-AA at Signal Mountain: 4:30--Macon County vs. Signal Mountain; 6--Notre Dame vs. Livingston Academy; 7:30--Championship
Ooltewah was again the top-seeded team in the District 5-AAA high school volleyball tournament. But unlike last year, the Lady Owls arrived there in a different fashion -- a much more dominant fashion.
Ooltewah graduated four starters off the team that tied Bradley Central and Soddy-Daisy for the 2012 regular-season title, each with a 9-3 district record. The Lady Owls earned the top seeding only after the tiebreakers were sorted.
This year, with district tournaments behind and region tournaments approaching, Ooltewah has yet to lose to one of its district opponents. Soddy-Daisy could change that Tuesday, but only if the Lady Owls and Lady Trojans win in Monday's semifinals of the Region 3 tournament at Ooltewah.
District 6 runner-up Stone Memorial plays Ooltewah (41-10) at 6 p.m. Soddy-Daisy (41-17) takes on District 6 champion Cookeville at 7:30. Tuesday's championship match is set for 6:30.
All region finalists advance to Thursday's state sectionals. Winners there move on to the state tournament in Murfreesboro next week.
Ooltewah coach Elaine Peigen knew she had players such as senior Sloan Sullivan (68 aces) who would give a solid performance throughout the rotation, but the coach had more questions than answers at the start of the season. Sullivan said success has come because when someone makes a big play, the energy level rises and everyone feeds off that.
"I think we've worked well together," Sullivan said. "The team chemistry on and off the floor is great."
Bethany Spange is a senior who plays all the way around for the Lady Owls. She said not getting ahead of themselves had a lot to do with getting through the district regular season and tournament unscathed.
"I think we've just stayed focused," Spange said. "We set a goal and then strive for it."
Junior middle blocker Courtlyn Ison leads the Lady Owls with 379 kills and 126 blocks and was the district's co-player of the year along with East Hamilton sophomore Emma Lenoir. Junior Josie Cain moved into the libero role and has responded with 406 digs. Sophomore Hanna Matthews has emerged at setter and has 828 assists.
"I was worried losing that many experienced players at the beginning of the year," Peigen said. "As we've progressed, the players now filling in those spots have continued on. We're a little taller than last year in the front. The fact Hanna Matthews has come through and done a great job setting is not a surprise, but she really developed over the winter. She's one of the best we've ever had."
Sophomore Alex Biro and freshman Sidney Killingsworth have helped provide depth up front. Junior Kailin Higgins is a server and backup setter, and sophomore Summer Williams plays on the back row and helps with serving.
Peigen said she had heard good things about Stone Memorial's team, which beat Cookeville in the two regular-season meetings but lost 3-0 to the Lady Cavaliers last Thursday.
"We don't know a lot about these teams," Ison said. "We're not sure what they're capable of, but they must be good because they're in the region. But I know if we play our game, we have a chance to do really well."
If Ooltewah does well this week, it will find itself making a return trip to the state tournament. And regardless of what anyone else looked forward to with the 2013 Lady Owls, the season has been more about what they've looked forward to.
"We had such high expectations from last year," Spange said. "We all wanted to live up to them."
Contact Kelley Smiddie at email@example.com or 423-757-6653. Follow him at twitter.com/KelleySmiddie.
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.