The Oak Ridge Lady Wildcats are 9-1 overall this volleyball season, and they are 4-0 in district games.
The team will play again after the Labor Day weekend, traveling to Knoxville Catholic on Tuesday and to play district opponent Powell on Thursday.
Here are summaries of games this season submitted by Buzz Patrick, with some light editing.
Oak Ridge versus Bearden on August 20
The Oak Ridge Lady Wildcats volleyball team opened their 2019 campaign on the road at district foe Bearden. The Lady ‘Cats came out strong with a 25-11 first set victory and never looked back dispensing with the Lady ‘Dogs in straight sets.
“This was a good way to kick off the season after a long six-week preseason,” said Oak Ridge Head Coach David Kolodney. “Starting with a district opponent is an informative way to see where we stand among our peers, and I’m pleased with how we matched up.”
Bearden finished third in the regular-season District 4-AAA standings in 2018.
“All players contributed and we never lost focus or drive,” Kolodney said of the Oak Ridge players during the Bearden game. “In a long season in which we want to win our last game, winning our first is a good way to start.”
All 10 rostered varsity players saw action against Bearden. Junior outside hitter Ainsley Patrick led the attack with 14 kills, while junior setter Paige Halcrow delivered four aces. Junior outside hitter Lynley Baldwin played lock-down defense, leading her team with 14 digs.
For her defensive efforts and all-around offensive and serving play, Baldwin was named player of the match by her coach.
“She may not always be a flashy player, but she goes about her business and quietly racks up numbers,” Kolodney said. “14 digs with only two errors undoubtedly kept us in these matches. Couple that with a 92 percent serve rate, (and) you’ve got a solid consistent player on both sides of the ball.”
Oak Ridge versus West on August 22
The Lady Wildcats (now 2-0) had another district win after a 3-1 match victory at West High School in Knoxville.
“This was a well-earned, hard-fought win on the road in a loud and rowdy gym,” Kolodney said. “Even though the first two sets weren’t very close, we know that West was too good to just go away.”
West was the only district opponent to beat the Lady ‘Cats last year, and that defeat took place at West in four sets.
“The difference with our team this year is they believe they can win,” Kolodney said. “So even though we lost the third, we were able to come out strong and win in the fourth.”
Oak Ridge dominated at the service line in the first two sets and was successful disrupting the potent West offense. The Wildcats struggled to execute that strategy in the third set, but they were able to find their serve and attack again in the dominating fourth set.
“Ainsley was an offensive powerhouse tonight putting up big numbers behind the baseline and at the net,” Kolodney said, referring to the co-captain. “She had six aces and only one miss in 20 serve attempts. With 17 kills, she accounted for nearly a quarter of our points tonight.”
The Lady Wildcats had a balanced performance with a perfect passing performance (zero errors) from junior Marybeth Luby and a team-high .364 attack percent from junior Brenna Allred.
“This was a great result against a very good team and one that is clearly our district rival,” Kolodney said. “Hopefully that belief in ourselves carries through this weekend and the rest of the season as we know we will face some tough competition.”
Oak Ridge at Showdown at the Sunsphere Tournament
Oak Ridge finished its busy opening week with a 5-1 record at the Showdown at the Sunsphere tournament in Knoxville.
“I couldn’t be prouder of what this team accomplished this weekend,” Kolodney said. “They played a lot of volleyball at an incredibly high level from beginning to end.”
The Showdown at the Sunsphere brought 52 of the top high school teams from throughout Tennessee, Kentucky, and South Carolina to Knoxville to compete in the two-day tournament.
“Even after dropping a set in the opening match, they never lost focus or drive and came back to win a decisive 15-8 third set,” Kolodney said, referring to the first match of pool play against William Blount. “I hope their play proved a lot to them because it certainly did to me.”
The Lady ‘Cats dropped only two more sets throughout the tournament, and those came at the hands of eventual tournament champion and Prepvolleyball.com preseason #37 team in the nation, Sacred Heart (Louisville, Kentucky) in the gold bracket quarterfinals.
The Lady Wildcats’ 5-1 record earned them a four-way tie for fifth place in the tournament.
In the winning sets, Oak Ridge’s margin of victory averaged more than eight points per set.
“That’s not possible against this level of competition without great play in all phases of the game and that’s what I saw from them over the past two days,” Kolodney said. “We had great play from the starters and from the bench. It’s great to know that I have that kind of depth and flexibility from my players.”
Oak Ridge and Knoxville Catholic tied for the highest finish by Knoxville area teams in the tournament.
The Lady ‘Cats were consistently paced by setter Halcrow, who was one of only two players to play every point of every match.
“She’s a vocal and emotional leader,” Kolodney said of the co-captain. “She’s also outstanding when it comes to the stat line: second in ace percent, second most serves, second in kills and kill percentage, second in blocks, and led the team with digs. She does it all at an extremely high level.”
Kolodney named Halcrow the player of the tournament for her outstanding performance and leadership.
The Lady Wildcats return home on Tuesday and Thursday for District matches against Campbell County and Halls. Oak Ridge is 7-1 for the season, 2-0 in District play.
Oak Ridge versus Campbell County on August 27
The #7 Oak Ridge team played its first home match of the season during this Tuesday night game against Campbell County.
“This was a good match for us to play after a long weekend of volleyball,” Kolodney said. “It let us re-focus on the district season and really work on our fundamentals.”
The Lady ‘Cats easily took the first set 25-7 and completed the sweep with 25-11 and 25-14 set victories.
“It was great to see the all-around strength of our players as I was able to use my bench to give the starters some points off,” Kolodney said.
All 10 rostered varsity players saw extensive action throughout the match and logged significant statistics.
“I was confident in their ability to play, and they didn’t let me down,” Kolodney said. “Also, it sure was nice to play in front of our own fans for a change.”
Oak Ridge was paced by the serving of Marybeth Luby, who had 19 serves at 100 percent.
“She set the tone for the match and she was lights out today,” Kolodney said of the defensive specialist. “She was able to serve perfectly while being aggressive—solid defense and some front row action—she really helped us win.” Luby was named player of the match by Kolodney.
The win put Oak Ridge at 8-1 for the season and 3-0 in district games.
Oak Ridge versus Halls on August 29
Oak Ridge faced district opponent Halls at Wildcat Arena on Thursday.
The Lady Devils kept it close halfway through the first set until Oak Ridge’s Luby served up a 7-0 run. The Lady ‘Cats never let up, sweeping Halls in straight sets (25-15, 25-16, 25-12).
“Another good win for us against a district opponent,” Kolodney said. “This was also a good win to build some confidence in our ability to adapt to self-inflicted mistakes. We were able to keep points alive long enough to find ourselves a kill.”
Oak Ridge struggled with their serve-receive early in the night and delivered an uncharacteristic 21 percent passing errors during the match.
“More than half our points came by way of a kill, which is more impressive because of the lack of a good first pass,” Kolodney said. The Lady ‘Cats attack was firing on all cylinders with 43 of their 75 points coming from kills.
Oak Ridge was led by Patrick, who had 17 kills on the night, surpassing 100 kills for the season.
“She set the tone in the first set with seven of our 17 kills and didn’t let up throughout the next two,” Kolodney said. “She was responsible for nearly 25 percent of our points. Ainsley was our go-to player tonight and a real difference maker.”
The Lady Wildcats had highly efficient attacks from Allred and Halcrow, who both had a kill percentage of more than 60 percent. Halcrow also chipped in with 13 digs.
“Between now and Tuesday, we will be working on our passing to make sure we are ready to go on Tuesday against what is always a very good Catholic team,” Kolodney said. Patrick was named player of the match by her coach.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
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