“We started out service receiving and passing better than we had all year, but Ooltewah has a really good defense and we never really could get into a good rhythm,” declared a disappointed Bradley head coach Christie McElhaney after the 3-1 defeat to the District 5-AAA leading Lady Owls.
“We stayed with them the first two sets, but then the third game everything seemed to fall apart,” the Bearette coach bemoaned. “We have got to watch some film and fix some mismatches before the district tournament.”
At 21-18 overall and 5-6 in district play, Bradley slips to fourth place in the 5-AAA standings with just one regular season match remaining at East Hamilton (22-17, 7-4) Thursday evening. The district tournament begins Monday at Ooltewah.
Improving to 33-8 overall and finishing a perfect 12-0 in 5-AAA play, the Lady Owls opened Tuesday’s match with a quick 6-3 advantage before the Bearettes were able to rally to even the score. The teams jockeyed back-and-forth for the next 23 points before the visitors went on a 7-2 run to claim the opening set 25-19.
In Game 2, it was Bradley which jumped up 6-3 only to have the Lady Owls come back with three straight points to knot things up. Once again the next 25 points were a nip-and-tuck, evenly matched battle.
With the scoreboard showing 17 on both sides, Ooltewah downed four straight kills and a block and appeared to once again be pulling away for the win. However, a block by senior all-stater Brooke Copeland and a push by sophomore Julia Gaither stemmed the tide.
After a service error by the hosts gave the Lady Owls a 22-19 edge, Copeland drilled another kill shot and freshman Halle Hughes stepped behind the line and served up five straight winners, including an ace to take the lead for good in the 25-22 final.
Swapping sides of the court in a knotted up battle, Ooltewah took command of the third set from the get-go, scoring the first four points and building a 12-2 and 15-3 advantages.
After the difference got to its highest point at 21-5, the Bearettes showed a little life with a 6-3 spurt but it was too little, too late as Courtney Ison powered home the game winner for the visitors in a 25-11 tally.
The fourth set looked more like the first two to begin with as the Lady Owls went up 6-3 only to have the hosts battle back to even it at a half dozen points apiece. The score was still knotted at 9-all when Ooltewah ran off five straight points before coach McElhaney’s crew went on a 4-1 run to pull back within a couple of points of the lead.
The Lady Owls then showed when they are atop the district standings by closing out the match with a 10-3 streak for a 25-16 finale in the fourth set.
Sloan Sullivan led the visitors with a dozen digs, 11 kills, a pair of aces and a block. Josie Cain collected 12 digs, while Hanna Matthews dished out 35 assists, dug out 15 shots and downed four kills.
Ison finished with 15 kills and 2.5 blocks, while Bethany Spange had 13 digs and a half dozen kills. Sidney Killingsworth slammed down eight winners for the Lady Owls.
Copeland topped the hometown effort with 18 kills, eight digs and seven blocks in her final regular season match in Smiddy Arena, while senior classmate Rebecca Reuter added eight kills, a pair of blocks and two digs. The “Twin Tower” pair were honored before the match in Senior Night ceremonies.
Hughes handed out 13 assists and had a trio of digs, while fellow setter McKenna Stinnett dished off 10 helps and dug out four shots. Junior libero Chanler Grady had a dozen digs, while sophomore Breelee Arms collected 11 digs.
Bringing awareness to Breast Cancer research both teams, coaches and many fans wore pink for the “Pink Out” event, with each player dedicating the game to someone they knew who had been affected by the disease.