The battle for the top spot in the District 7-AA high school volleyball race has had more twists and turns than the main road from Chattanooga that runs up and down Signal Mountain.
Chattanooga Christian made the trek Monday to play at Signal Mountain -- a team it had beaten in four sets earlier in the season. This time the Lady Eagles flipped the script and defeated the Lady Chargers 3-0. Set scores were 25-20, 25-21, 25-12.
District opponent Bledsoe County fell to both CCS and Signal Mountain by 3-0 scores. The Lady Chargers won 25-3, 25-12, 25-12, and the Lady Eagles won 25-8, 25-10, 25-7.
Of the three teams in contention for first place in the regular season going into Monday's matches, Signal Mountain (23-16, 7-2) has had perhaps the most up-and-down season overall. CCS (18-18, 4-2) looked to be in good shape through the first four weeks but now can end up with no better than a No. 2 seeding in the district tournament, which the regular-season champion will host.
Notre Dame, which lost 3-0 when it hosted Signal Mountain on Sept. 5, seemed out of the picture until recently winning 3-1 over Signal and 3-2 over CCS on consecutive nights. Now barring any upsets by Bledsoe or Sequatchie County over the next week, the Lady Irish could earn the regular-season title Oct. 3 if they can win at CCS. If not, Signal Mountain would be the champion via a tiebreaker.
"We had practice yesterday and talked about the importance of winning this match and winning in three," Signal Mountain coach Jennifer Redman said of Monday's win. "I was hoping we would come ready to play."
CCS coach Brian Wood said a slow start doomed his team in each set.
"We can't wait until seven points in, then start playing volleyball," he said. "We were down 7-2, 7-1 every time before we started playing. We've got to be able to pass. You can't beat good teams when you don't pass."
Signal hitter Taelor Kellum, who had representatives from Florida and Ole Miss watching her Monday, sparked the victory over CCS with 13 kills, four blocks, three aces and eight digs.
"She's been our constant," Redman said. "I've challenged our front row that when she's out or she moves to the back row, other people have to produce besides Taelor. She's had as much as 25 kills in a match before, and the next closest have two. You can't have that against a good team."
Carolynn Thielges led the Lady Eagles against CCS with 11 assists, and Aryn Sanders led with 16 digs.
Erin Jackson stood out for CCS against Signal Mountain with seven kills, three blocks and two aces.
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.