After Bradley Central and Soddy-Daisy tied Ooltewah for the top spot in the District 5-AAA race this season it was expected both would advance to the face each other in tonight’s tournament semifinals, but neither looked real sharp doing so.
With all three schools posting 9-3 league marks, the tie-breaker put the Bearettes in the second seed, pitting them against No. 7 McMinn County, while the Lady Trojans were slotted third and had to open postseason play against sixth-seeded Rhea County.
Both teams advanced with straight-set victories Monday night at Jim Smiddy Arena, but the results were tougher to come by than expected.
Despite a lackluster performance, Bradley claimed a 25-12, 25-22, 25-17 victory over the Lady Cherokees (9-14), who haven’t won a district match in more than five years. Meanwhile the Lady Trojans held off a determined Lady Eagle (8-17) squad by a 25-13, 25-19, 28-26 margin.
Bradley (28-12) will take on Soddy-Daisy (32-18) tonight in a win or go home battle with a region tournament berth on the line. The two teams split their two meetings during the regular season, each winning their home match.
Fourth-seeded Cleveland (24-21) defeated county rival Walker Valley in five sets Monday evening and will take the court against top-seeded Ooltewah (30-11) in tonight’s 5 p.m. semifinal opener. Bradley and Soddy will follow at approximately 6:30 p.m.
Tonight’s victors will tangle for the district title Wednesday evening at 6, plus earn a spot in next week’s Region 3-AAA Tournament.
Lady Cherokees 0
After scoring the first three points Monday evening, including an ace by senior Brianna Howard, Bradley saw the girls from Athens battle back to even the score three times before taking the lead at 7-6.
After the teams traded serves, Co-District 5-AAA Players of the Year Kayla Arp and Brooke Copeland hooked up for back-to-back kills to put the hosts ahead before sophomore Chanler Grady served up an ace.
The Bearettes then did what was expected of them by scoring 15 of the final 19 points of the opening game for the 13-point victory.
In Game 2 however, McMinn County raced out to a quick 7-3 lead, taking advantage of some Bearette errors. The Lady Cherokees maintained the lead until Bradley finally pulled even at 11-11, but then the visitors once again went ahead by a pair.
The two teams then traded points until the scoreboard had 18 showing on both sides. Bradley was then able to inch ahead 22-19 on a short 4-1 run capped by an ace from sophomore McKenna Stinnett.
McMinn County pulled back within a point of the lead before the hosts were able to score the final two points, including an ace by Copeland on match point.
After coach Christie McElhaney gave them a good talking to, the Bearettes looked like the dominate team that was expected in Game 3, scoring the first five points, including back-to-back aces by Howard.
After building a 9-2 advantage, Bradley used a 5-0 run that included two aces from sophomore Lisa Duvall to push the lead to its highest point at 14-5. The teams then traded the next dozen points before the Lady Cherokees went on their final run of the season to close the gap to five points.
Copeland then closed the door with three straight monster slams to complete the sweep.
“We won. That’s about all we can say,” declared an agitated McElhaney afterward. “We had no ‘umph.’ No get up. We just walked through the motions. If we do that tomorrow night, our season will be over.”
“We have got to play with the intensity that Cleveland and Walker Valley played with tonight,” she said of the Lady Raiders’ five-set victory. “This time of year you can’t afford to take a night off.”
Like they have all season, Copeland and Arp led the Bearette attack. Copeland, the 6-foot-2 junior who plays the back line as well as she does the net, finished with 13 kills, nine service receptions, seven service points and five digs. Arp, the 5-foot-9 senior setter, handed out 16 assists and had a half dozen service points, four digs and a kill.
Howard finished with 15 service winners, including five aces, and seven digs, while junior Rebecca Reuter had six kills, a half dozen receptions and three digs.
Playing the libero, junior Whitney Donaldson had eight digs and a half dozen receptions, with sophomore Rachael Garrett tallying five digs and a trio of receptions. Duvall had seven service winners, five digs and five kills in the victory, while Grady added a trio of digs and three assists.
Lady Trojans 3
Lady Eagles 0
After breezing to a 12-point win in the opening game, Soddy-Daisy found the going a little tougher the rest of the way.
The two teams traded the first 26 points of Game 2 before the Lady Trojans went on a 10-2 run to break the game open. However, the girls from Evensville weren’t ready to throw in the towel and scored the next four points before Soddy finally closed it out.
The action was even tighter in the final game of the match when the score was knotted at 13-all and 17-all, before Rhea County held a 20-18 advantage.
After a timeout, the Lady Trojans, who played in the TSSAA state tournament last year, battled back to go up 23-22, but the score was knotted three more times before they were able to close out the victory with a 28-26 tally.
Alex Schafer paced the victory with 15 digs, 11 kills and a pair of aces. Rachel Hargis dug out 20 shots and served up an ace, while Lauren Smith had 17 digs and seven kills.
Chloe Mitchell dished off 26 assists, had nine digs, four aces, two kills and a block for the victors, while Hannah Robertson had 23 digs.
Lauren Jenkins finished with five kills and five blocks, while Haley Reynolds had eight kills and a block.