Not only did Ooltewah rally for eight straight points to win the third game, but never trailed in the final game to capture the crown and the right to host a TSSAA sectional game Thursday evening.
“We had a great comeback last night (from a 16-22 deficit against Cookeville in Monday’s region opener), so we know it’s important to finish, but we just couldn’t stop it,” commented Bearette coach Christie McElhaney.
“We came out on fire in the third game, but we just didn’t finish,” she added. “We gave them too many free balls and Ooltewah executes free balls very well.”
After Bradley claimed the opening game by a 25-22, the Lady Owls responded with a 25-11 whipping in Game 2. The Bearettes bounced back and led the third game all the way to game point, before Region MVP Leondra Barrett took over with five kills and a downed block in the final 8-0 rally for a 26-24 decision. Other than the opening point, the final game saw the hosts lead the whole way to claim the crown with a 25-17 tally.
“I give all the credit to our girls,” proclaimed veteran Lady Owl coach Elaine Peigen. “We played with a lot of heart and determination.”
Ooltewah (34-18) will be looking for its first trip to the TSSAA state tournament since 2009 when it entertains Siegel Thursday evening, while Bradley (30-14) will make the three-hour journey to Region 4-AAA champion Columbia Central.
The Lady Owls, who also defeated the Bearettes in a four-set match for the District 5-AAA crown a week ago, started Tuesday by scoring eight of the region title match’s first 10 points. Bradley fought back and after cutting the deficit to 18-19, posted a 7-3 rally to close out the Game 1 win.
After swapping ends of the court, Ooltewah took advantage of five straight Bradley miscues to leap out to a 6-0 lead before stretching the difference to 14-3 a few moments later. The Bearettes were able to stem the tide momentarily with four straight points, but the hosts went on an 13-4 tear to even the match at a game apiece.
The Bearettes turned the tide in Game 3, racing out to an 11-3 advantage and still maintained that eight-point edge until the score stood at 20-12. The Lady Owls were able to close the gap to just four after back-to-back aces from Isabela Zdunek.
Bradley then pushed its lead back to a half dozen after a pair of kills and an ace by junior Brooke Copeland to break the score to game-point. That’s when Barrett took the bull by the horns and won the region MVP award in a five minute span.
The final game saw the two teams battle evenly through the first 16 points before the Lady Owls came up with a brief 3-0 spurt. After swapping the next eight points, another 3-0 mini run pushed the hosts’ up by five points. After Bradley pulled within three, Ooltewah closed the night with an 8-3 run with Karly Newman finishing off the victory with the 40th kill by a combined half dozen Lady Owls. The hosts also blocked 15 shots.
Barrett finished with a dozen kills and 8.5 blocks, while Zdunek and Courtlyn Ison helped out with eight and five kills respectively, plus 3.5 blocks apiece.
Kelsey Chernak handed out 31 assists, had 15 digs, four kills, a pair of aces and a block for the region champs, while Karly Newman dug out 14 shots, plus had a half dozen kills. Chernak, Newman, Zdunek and libero Josie Cain joined Barrett on the all-region team.
For Bradley, senior setter Kayla Arp dished out 32 assists, had a baker’s dozen digs and five kills, while Copeland downed a match-high 20 kills and had 19 service receptions, 16 digs and a pair of blocks.
Junior Rebecca Reuter garnered 14 kills, 23 receptions, 11 digs and a half dozen service points for the Bearettes. Sophomores Chanler Grady (10 service points, six digs) and Lisa Duvall (eight digs, nine receptions) also had strong outings.
Arp, Copeland, Reuter and Duvall were selected to the all-tournament squad.
The two local rivals have met five times this season with Bradley winning the first two, but the Lady Owls have claimed the last three.