The Oak Ridge volleyball team won its fourth consecutive District 4-AAA tournament championship on Thursday.
The Lady Wildcats were undefeated in the district during the regular season, and as a result, they did not have to play in the first round of the district tournament, which was at Bearden High School.
Here is information about the tournament provided by Buzz Patrick:
Oak Ridge faced the number five seed, Karns, in the semifinal match on Thursday, and the Lady Wildcats swept the Lady Beavers in three sets (25-12, 25-15, 25-16) behind the stellar serving of junior Paige Halcrow, who notched seven aces against the Lady Beavers to help the ‘Cats counteract some of their own passing errors.
After a short break, the Lady Wildcats faced the number two seed, West, in the finals. Oak Ridge defeated West for the third time this year (25-22, 25-12, 25-12) to earn the 2019 District 4-AAA tournament championship to accompany their regular season championship.
The Lady Wildcats were paced by Ainsley Patrick, who delivered 14 kills against Karns and a career-high 23 kills against West, and Halcrow with 43 assists and 12 aces, surpassing the 100-ace mark for the season. Middle blocker Ipek Ozcan led with six blocks, and sophomore libero Sydney Ward had 28 digs.
“I’m very happy with the results from tonight,” said Oak Ridge Head Coach Dave Kolodney. “We came in with a purpose, to host the region round, and didn’t lose sight of that goal.”
The District 4-AAA champion was scheduled to host the Region 2-AAA tournament, and the Lady ‘Cats delivered.
“It wasn’t always the cleanest volleyball we’ve played, but we were able to overcome some slow starts and mental lapses to win in straight sets,” Kolodney said. “That said, this is just the beginning for us. Our goal since July has been to play deep into October, and while the regular season set us up well for that, tonight was really just step one.”
The Lady Wildcats have two more rounds to complete before reaching their goal of a state tournament berth. The Region 2-AAA tournament will be hosted by Oak Ridge on Tuesday, and the top two teams will advance to the sectional round, which will take place on Thursday. Sectional games determine which teams advance to the state tournament.
“We’ll be back in the gym tomorrow morning to prepare for Farragut and work on Step 2: Getting through the region round,” Kolodney said.
In the regional tournament, the top two teams from District 4 face the top two teams from District 3.
The Oak Ridge-Farragut semifinal game is scheduled to start at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday at Wildcat Arena. The other semifinal match, between Maryville and West, is also scheduled to start at 5:30 p.m.
The regional championship game will immediately follow the semifinal matches. Semifinal winners will earn an automatic berth to the sectional matches on Thursday, where they will face the top two teams in Region 1.
At Bearden on Thursday, Oak Ridge also collected a number of district awards along with their championship hardware. Kolodney was named Coach of the Year, and junior middle blocker Brenna Allred collected Defensive Player of the Year honors. Junior co-captains Halcrow and Patrick were named Offensive Players of the Year. Halcrow was also named to the All-Tournament Team, and Patrick was named Tournament MVP.
“(Ainsley’s) been a dominant player all year and our ‘go to’ when we need a big moment. That was no different tonight,” Kolodney said of the junior outside hitter. “She had nearly half the team kills, including some when we absolutely needed to put the ball away.”
Patrick shelled out a devastating 6.2 kills/set across both matches.
“She was also more vocal than she’s been through much of the year and was instrumental in being able to help lift us out of those mental lapses. It’s no surprise she was named the tournament MVP,” Kolodney said.
Oak Ridge defeated West twice during the regular season, winning three of four sets at West on Thursday, August 22, and at home on Tuesday, September 17.
Oak Ridge now has an overall 33-4 record.
Here is more information from Patrick about a few other recent games:
Oak Ridge at Karns (October 2)
Oak Ridge finished its regular season at Karns on Wednesday, October 2. The Lady Beavers put up a fight, but the Lady Wildcats were still able to sweep them in three straight sets (25-17, 25-16, 25-22).
“While we didn’t play as well as we could, we played well enough to complete the season sweep of Karns and finish our district season undefeated, which is always our goal,” Kolodney said. “Now we turn to the second part of the season, when everything we’ve done up until this point gets erased.”
Oak Ridge secured a number one seed in the district tournament with their undefeated district record, and was to face the winner of the match between the number four and number five seeds.
“We know everyone will be coming for us so it’s time to rise to the challenge and make a statement,” Kolodney said. “We’ll head back to the practice court and work on those things we need to fix and be ready for the start of the playoffs next week.”
Oak Ridge was led at Karns by Allred, who was named player of the match by Kolodney.
“It’s always good to get points without having to get into rallies, and Brenna was able to do that throughout this match,” Kolodney said. “She served strong (36 percent ace), hit strong (44 percent kills), and blocked strong (two blocks). She’s steadily improved throughout the season and is a big reason why we’ve been able to have the success we’ve had so far and will be a big reason for that success to continue.”
Oak Ridge finished the regular season with a 31-4 overall record and 12-0 record in district play.
Oak Ridge at Farragut (October 1)
The Lady Wildcats prevailed in a two-set match at Farragut on Tuesday, October 1, sweeping the Lady Admirals (28-26, 25-14).
“This was a great way to end our non-district regular season: beating a team we haven’t beaten in a decade,” Kolodney said. “We’ve had our troubles with (Farragut) both physically and mentally in the past, but this year we found a groove late in the first set and didn’t look back.”
The Lady ‘Cats were forced to battle in the first set in order to close it out, but the Lady Admirals never took a lead in the second.
“We’ve got a strong starting six and a strong bench, which is exactly what you need to make an October run,” Kolodney said. “On a night when we hit 1,000 kills for the season, it only seems fitting that Ainsley is named player of the match.”
At that time, Patrick had a team-leading 343 kills during the season, and she picked up nine at Farragut.
“She had another great night with her nine kills on 20 swings to go along with two blocks at the net,” Kolodney said. “She also helped her own cause by having a perfect passing night, which allowed our setters to do what they wanted with the ball.”
Halcrow led the way with 12 assists; Ward had 12 digs; and Allred chipped in with three blocks.
“It was great to get this win, which put us at 30 wins for the seasons with hopefully more to go,” Kolodney said. “It was also a great night for charity as we’re always honored to be a part of our annual Dig Pink match with Farragut.”
Oak Ridge versus Powell at home (September 30)
The Lady Wildcats played their last regular-season home match against Powell on Monday, September 30.
The Lady Panthers put up little resistance as the Lady ‘Cats dominated from start to finish in the three-set sweep (25-11, 25-8, 25-4).
“This was a good match to have after a long Saturday with a frustrating end,” Kolodney said. “We were able to refocus ourselves and work on correcting some of the unforced errors that cost us a chance at winning that tournament.”
The Lady Wildcats lost in the quarterfinals of Saturday’s Courtside at Concord (September 28) after going undefeated in pool play.
“We still made too many (errors) tonight, especially serving,” Kolodney said. “But we were able to get past them for the victory.”
The Lady ‘Cats were led by Halcrow with nine digs; Patrick with 11 kills; Ward with four aces; and Piper Suddeth with 13 assists. Sophomore Alex Shanafield was named Player of the Match by her coach.
“Statistically she played a very solid game—20 percent aces with more serves than anyone else, as well as no attack errors, and two kills from her 11 swings,” Kolodney said about his sophomore pin hitter. “However, what made her so valuable tonight is her ability to play multiple positions throughout the evening, giving some of our starters some much-needed late-season rest. Tonight, she played two different positions and in three different rotations without missing a beat.”
With this victory, Oak Ridge locked up its sole claim to the District 4-AAA regular season title.
“Tonight was another step toward an undefeated district season and the top seed in the district tournament,” Kolodney said.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
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