OOLTEWAH — The Bradley Central volleyball team won’t play again until Tuesday and head coach Christie McElhaney said during the time off the team needs to make some tough decisions.
“We need to see who is going to step up and play,” declared an exasperated McElhaney after her Bearettes got swept out of “The Barn” by Ooltewah for their third loss in five District 5-AAA matches so far this season.
Ooltewah took the match 25-23, 25-15, 25-10.
“We had 22 service reception errors in three games. We can’t pass the ball. We are making way too many unforced errors,” the coach assessed. “If we can’t pass, we can’t get the sets we need to run our offense.”
Bradley has a district bye Thursday evening, plus will have its first weekend of the season off before returning to the court on Tuesday to wrap up the first half of the district schedule when Soddy-Daisy comes to Jim Smiddy Arena.
The Bearettes came out strong Tuesday evening, scoring 11 of the match’s first 15 points, including aces by junior Noa Williams and senior Rebecca Reuter. Reuter, a 6-foot-3 Middle Tennessee State basketball commitment, also had three kills and a pair of blocks during the run.
Ooltewah (17-2, 4-0 District 5-AAA) , which played in the TSSAA State Championships last season, fought back to cut the seven-point deficit to a single point at 18-17. After the Bearettes pushed back out to a four-point advantage, the Lady Owls rallied to score eight on the set’s final 10 points to claim a 25-23 victory.
“We started extremely slow. Both teams had a very busy weekend (at the Choo Choo Classic, where Ooltewah finished second to a very powerful Atlanta Trinity squad), so it took a while to get going,” declared Lady Owl coach Elaine Peigen. “Bradley is a better team than they showed tonight. It won’t be the same when we play them again.”
After making the strong comeback for victory in the opener, Ooltewah dominated the final two sets, never trailing in either. The hosts jumped out to an 11-4 edge in the second game and led by as many as 11 points before posting the 10-point win.
Leading 10-6 in the final set, the Lady Owls used an 8-0 streak to break open game and then scored seven of the night’s final eight points.
Sloan Sullivan led the way for Ooltewah with eight kills, nine digs, three aces and a block. Josie Cain helped out with 10 digs and an ace, while Courtlyn Ison downed 11 kills and a half a block.
Hanna Matthews handed out 27 assists and dug out four shots, with Alex Biro slamming down five kills and blocking a shot. Bethany Spange helped out with five digs, three kills and a trio of aces. Summer Williams added four digs and an ace for the victors.
Reuter topped the Bearette tally sheet with a half dozen kills and 3 1/2 blocks, while Julia Gaither had 11 digs and three kills. Lisa Duvall dug out six shots, had four kills and a pair of aces, while Chanler Grady handed out a half dozen assists and had four digs. Natalie Jennings had a pair of kills and 2 1/2 blocks.
In a show of sportsmanship, the Lady Owl players made a banner saying “Fell Better Brooke” in reference to Bradley’s 6-foot-2 all-stater, who has been unable to play so far this season while recovering from elbow surgery.
“The girls wanted to do something special for Brooke. We hate to see anybody hurt and unable to play, so we wanted to let her know we are thinking about her,” explained coach Peigen. The sign even had an alligator head on it, refering to Copeland having committed to play basketball for the University of Florida.
“Ooltewah called and checked on her when she was in the hospital,” related coach McElhaney. “That (the sign) was really nice of them to do.”
Ooltewah won the junior varsity match 25-19, 25-23, while Bradley captured the freshman games 25-7, 25-21.