The way things have gone for the high school volleyball teams in District 5-AAA this season, Soddy-Daisy losing to Cleveland on Tuesday should could come as no surprise. At least not anymore of a surprise than the Lady Trojans coming back from two sets down Thursday to defeat Ooltewah 3-2.
The Lady Owls had won six consecutive district matches after losing their first two. Back in contention for the district regular-season title, Ooltewah appeared in control at Soddy-Daisy, but the Lady Trojans found some magic from somewhere and rallied to win 22-25, 18-25, 25-17, 25-20, 15-9.
"The first game we gave them some early points, five or six, then beat them the rest of the way," Soddy-Daisy coach Lorri Johnson said. "It was nip and tuck in the second game, and then we let them have a series of points. If we stop that, we win. Games three, four and five, we stopped that."
Alex Schafer was among the statistical leaders for the Lady Trojans with 22 kills and 26 digs, but it was someone on the bench whom Johnson credited for sparking the turnaround.
"Abby Walker is who stepped up," Johnson said. "She's a sophomore who wasn't even in the game. She was cheering, talking, doing everything she could do from the bench. She was a coach. When we talked in between games two and three, I let her have it."
Even after losing the third and fourth sets, the Lady Owls took a 4-2 lead in the fifth. It was 6-6 when the Lady Trojans ran off five consecutive points and took control.
"Soddy-Daisy outplayed us," Ooltewah coach Elaine Peigen said. "We get them two games down and then we don't play smart. Their girls wanted it more than ours. We had some good things happen -- don't get me wrong. But you can't play two games and then stop playing with intensity.
"Our girls knew how important this match was. We'll go back to practice and see how we can finish up."
Ooltewah (19-9) and Soddy-Daisy (22-16) are each now 6-3 in the district. League-leading Bradley Central had one district loss entering Thursday's match against Walker Valley.
"Yeah, it would be nice to be first," Johnson said of the seedings for the district tournament, and Bradley is among the Lady Trojans' three remaining district matches. "I suppose we're not mathematically eliminated yet."
Other leaders for the Lady Trojans included Hannah Robertson, who led them with 42 digs and three aces. Chloe Mitchell topped them with 39 assists. Karigan Fulgham gave Schafer support with 10 kills and Lauren Smith contributed 34 digs.
Leondra Barrett's 17 kills and Courtlyn Ison's six blocks led the Lady Owls at the net. Ison and Karly Newman made nine kills each.
Kelsey Chernak led Ooltewah in assists with 37. Isabela Zdunek had a team-high 22 digs, Josie Cain added 19 and Sloan Sullivan chipped in with 14.
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.