Sloan Sullivan hosted a party at her family's house before Ooltewah played Stone Memorial in the first of Monday's Region 3-AAA high school volleyball semifinals. Then the Lady Owls basically continued the party on their home court.
With Sullivan as the first server, Ooltewah scored the first eight points against the Lady Panthers and never were threatened the entire night while coasting to a 3-0 victory. Set scores were 25-8, 25-9, 25-12.
Soddy-Daisy didn't have a strong start at the outset of its semifinal against Cookeville, but the Lady Trojans did have a timely strong finish that propelled them past the Lady Cavaliers 3-2. Set scores were 25-21, 21-25, 25-19, 16-25, 15-9.
Soddy-Daisy (42-17) will play Ooltewah (42-10) for the region championship tonight at 6:30 at Ooltewah. Both teams will advance to Thursday's state sectionals, where winners move on to next week's state tournament at Murfreesboro.
Having a party at the Sullivans' - which featured a contact version of table tennis known as "sting-pong" - is something the Lady Owls first did before last year's region tournament. It worked then, so they were just carrying on a tradition.
"We had to get in our playing pingpong and just dance," Sullivan said.
Six of Sullivan's 15 service points in the match were aces, and four of those were in the 8-0 start.
"We were pumped," Sullivan said. "We were really pumped."
Ooltewah coach Elaine Peigen said she addressed her team at practice Friday about not taking any team lightly because teams still playing this time of year are doing so for a reason. The Lady Owls allowed the Lady Panthers more than two points in succession only once, and that was when they cut an 8-3 deficit in the third set to 8-6.
"I think they were ready to play," Peigen said of her players. "I thought we played good defense, serve-received well, served well, and we had some key kills."
In addition to sparking Ooltewah with her serving, Sullivan led the Lady Owls in digs with 15 and contributed six kills.
"She did serve well, but I thought she played a good, overall consistent game," Peigen said. "I was pleased."
Alex Biro was the kills leader with 10, and Courtlyn Ison added nine kills and led with 4.5 blocks. Hanna Matthews totaled 28 assists.
Soddy-Daisy and Cookeville were 6-6 in the fifth set before a Lady Cavaliers shot went wide. That started the Lady Trojans on a closing 9-3 run that included a 5-0 spurt that left them on match point.
"We quit making errors," Soddy-Daisy coach Lorri Johnson said. "We had our passes working, we put the ball down hitting and made some big digs at crucial times."
Johnson said Cookeville had seven seniors and played like a team that didn't want its season to end. Lady Cavaliers serving errors were partly to blame for the match being as close as it was, along with the play of Lady Trojans Lauren Smith (11 kills, six aces, 22 digs) and Abby Walker (eight kills, two aces, 20 digs).
"They came through when we needed them," Johnson said. "They had kills when we had to have them - just huge plays. Those are my two outsides. They kept us glued."
Hannah Robertson led Soddy-Daisy with 23 digs. Chloe Mitchell set 29 assists.
Lionettes win 3-AA
Red Bank gained a measure of revenge from losing to a five-set match to Central in their district final, beating the Lady Purple Pounders 3-2 in the Region 3-AA championship match at Polk County. Set scores were 25-18, 21-25, 25-23, 22-25, 15-13.
Red Bank defeated Polk County 3-0 in one semifinal, 25-21, 25-15, 25-12, and Central beat McMinn Central 3-0 by scores of 25-10, 25-11, 25-14.
Red Bank (21-24) and Central (28-12) move on to Thursday's state-sectional round.
Allison Walker led the Lionettes with 14 kills in the title match and Dani Usher led with four blocks. Autumn Babb was their digs leader with 21, Abby Graham had 19 assists and Marjorie Smith served four aces.
"I think my girls just had to win it," Red Bank coach Mandi Munn said. "They refused to lose. They played steady. It was a tough match. Both teams played steady and consistent. It was just our night, I guess."
Tiffani Estep paced the Lady Pounders with 23 kills and five blocks. Rebekah Hill made 29 digs, Chasidy Ainslie had 32 assists and Skyler Wolfe led with three aces.
"Nobody likes coming away losing, but it was a great match," Central coach Robin Moore said. "What I hope my girls take away from it is that many region runner-up teams go on to the state tournament. Hopefully we'll get our mojo back and not let this get them down."
Contact Kelley Smiddie at email@example.com or 423-757-6653. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/KelleySmiddie.