“I think it was a back-and-forth match between who wanted to play good and who wanted to play bad,” said Walker Valley coach Judy Pruett after the heart-breaking 3-2 loss.
Ooltewah bounced back from a 15-25 loss in the opening game to claim the next easy 25-9 and 25-16 wins. Walker Valley refocused for a 25-22 win in game four and led by as much as seven points in the tie-breaker before falling 14-16.
The Lady Mustangs came out hot, going on a 7-0 run off the serves of senior Caitlin Geren to start the match.
Geren had one of her two aces in the run and finished the night with 16 assists, four kills, 10 digs and three blocks.
Walker Valley made quick work of the first game, finishing Ooltewah off by a 25-15 tally.
Then, like someone flipped a switch, things changed.
Everything started off well enough for the Lady Mustangs in the second game as Ooltewah was charged an early timeout after the Lady Owls were late getting back on the floor to start the second set.
The delay was caused when Ooltewah coach Elaine Peigen took her team out of the gym and into the lobby to have words with them after the opening loss.
The Lady Mustangs struck first and then it was all downhill from there. Ooltewah went on an early 14-point tear that drove the match far out of reach for Walker Valley.
The fire seemingly went out of the Lady Mustangs on the sideline, in the huddle and most importantly on the floor. Walker Valley put up just eight more points in the second set.
Pruett, tried to instill some passion back in the girls and her team responded with a seesaw battle to open the third game. However, the hosts had gone on a 10-point run midway through the game to go up by double digits before aiding the Lady Mustangs with a number of mental and technical errors.
Despite losing the set 16-25, Walker Valley’s squad looked revitalized and ready to play in Game 4.
The fourth match was hard fought by both teams and featured five lead changes. The match was decided by an emphatic kill shot by Lady Mustang Leslie Still to take the set, 25-22.
Still also had 11 other kills and seven digs on the night.
Walker Valley put up a comfortable 11-4 lead in the deciding match, and it looked like the Lady Mustangs were back.
But, a string of mistakes and miscues let the Lady Owls claw their way back into the game.
Three straight Ooltewah aces decided the match as the Lady Owls showed their mettle to take the final game 16-14 and the 3-2 victory.
“We were just lucky to get out of this mess,” said Peigen after her team’s victory.
Loren Bennett led the Lady Owls with 22 assists, 15 digs, 10 kills and eight aces. Six-foot-2 Leondra Barrett contributed nine kills and three blocks. Bridgette O’Brien had 13 kills and nine digs. Kelsey Chernak helped the team with 20 assists and 14 digs. Izabela Zdunek had 29 digs and Kianna Delaney had 13 kills and 20 digs.
“I think we started out really strong. We came in here to prove that we could play with Ooltewah, and we did,” said Pruett. “The last game was there for the team that made the least amount of mistakes, and in the end they made less errors.”
Next up for the Lady Mustangs is a match against an always tough Soddy-Daisy at home on Tuesday.
Other Walker Valley leaders for the night included Bristol Snider with 19 digs, 13 assists, four kills, two serve receptions and a block.
Taylor Pruett had 15 digs and 16 serve receptions. Morgan Elrod contributed 15 digs and eight serve receptions.
Jessica Stepp had seven kills, five digs and three serve receptions, Katie Wilds had four kills, three digs and three blocks, and Eryn Walker contributed eight digs.
The Lady Mustangs are 10-8 on the season and 3-2 in the division.