Cleveland could not have picked a tougher way to start to the volleyball season.
The Lady Raiders jumped straight into the District 5-AAA fire against talented Ooltewah Tuesday evening, only to be swept in three games by the powerhouse Lady Owls by scores of 25-19, 25-17 and 25-16.
“We knew coming into this game Ooltewah was better than us, and we know we are young and have a long way to go. What people don’t know or have seen is how far we have come,” said Lady Raiders coach Trish Flowers.
Flowers saw growth in the loss from a team that carries only two seniors with only one senior, Kayla Lee, on the court thanks to an injury to teammate Addie Strode, who hopes to return as quickly as possible to the lineup.
“We had great body language tonight. We picked up balls we weren’t picking up this summer and we were blocking a lot better. Ooltewah is aggressive and we have got to learn from teams that are better than us,” said Flowers.
“We’re young, we have a lot of potential. I hope we peak when it matters most.”
The Lady Raiders fell behind early in all three games and never seriously contended in the first two matches. Ooltewah led 14-6 at one point in game one, and built a 22-10 margin before closing out the win.
The Lady Owls led 7-1 to open the second match and led 12-2 and 23-12 before taking the win.
The Lady Raiders battled back from a 9-3 deficit in the final game and trailed 11-8 after back-to-back aces by freshman Emma Flowers. Kellee Geren’s ace kept Cleveland within two points at 15-13.
From there, it was all Lady Owls as Ooltewah outscored the Lady Raiders 9-3 to take the win.
“In the third game we had a run. We started picking it up and communicating on the court. I told them they have to stop waiting until they have nothing to lose to do that. They have to start doing it from the beginning,” said Flowers.
“They are a big team but I don’t think our girls were afraid of them. There was a day when we were, but we are over that. They are just a better team than we are.”
There is little time for the Lady Raiders to worry about Tuesday’s loss. Cleveland makes a quick turnaround today and will play their second district game in as many days, this time against the always-strong Lady Mustangs in “The Stable.”
“We play Walker Valley tomorrow, and we don’t have a practice in between. We have to be ready to go,” said Flowers.
The first volley is scheduled for 7 p.m.