Elaine Peigen has been blessed with a talented core of sophomores and juniors on her 2013 Ooltewah volleyball team. But on Wednesday in the 5-AAA championship against Soddy-Daisy, it was the smallest of the classes that came up the biggest.
Lady Owl seniors Sloan Sullivan and Bethany Spange had big plays in crucial moments, and Ooltewah was able to repeat their district championship with a 3-1 win over the Lady Trojans. Scores were 25-21, 25-19, 13-25, 25-21.
Ooltewah (41-10) will face the loser of the 6-AAA championhip between Cookeville and Stone Memorial on Monday in the Region 3-AAA tournament, while Soddy-Daisy (41-17) will travel to the champion.
Sullivan ran off 13 consecutive points in the second game, turning what was a five-point deficit to a 24-15 lead.
"When you get on a roll like that, it's fun," Sullivan said. "It was big for me because it boosted my confidence. I had been struggling at the time, but once I started serving, I just kept telling myself to believe."
The Lady Trojans trailed only once in the third game. They took the lead for good when a shot by Sullivan sailed long, and Lauren Smith served out the final nine points to keep Soddy-Daisy alive. The fourth game was tight, but Spange came up with a number of big plays down the stretch, and both she and Sullivan accounted for the final four points, with the latter's kill sealing the win and the championship.
"Those two provide experience and leadership on the court," Peigen said. "Sloan came through with some key serving, and Bethany had some key points towards the end. It's nice to be No. 1 going into the region, but everybody's good the rest of the way."
Tournament Most Valuable Player Courtlyn Ison had a team-high 11 kills and four blocks for the Lady Owls, and was joined by Sullivan, Hanna Matthews, Alex Biro, Josie Cain and Sidney Killingsworth on the all-tournament team. Soddy-Daisy was led by Haley Reynolds' eight kills.
"We took Ooltewah four sets twice and five sets once. We just came up a little short here and there," Soddy-Daisy coach Lorri Johnson said. "We had a run in the third set that rattled their confidence. We came up short, but we have another week to keep improving."
Contact Gene Henley at email@example.com or 423-757-6311. Follow him at twitter.com/genehenleytfp.