By BEN JOHNSON
Tahlequah was sailing right along, winning the first two sets with ease. Then Bishop Kelley opted to fight back, presenting a late challenge for the Class 5A No. 7 Lady Tigers.
No sweat for Tahlequah.
Tahlequah strung together three long scoring runs and rallied to win the final set, polishing off a 3-0 (25-15, 25-17, 25-120) triumph over Bishop Kelley at the TMAC on Tuesday night.
Bachman-Turner Overdrive then overtook the speakers in the Lady Tigers’ spacious venue, playing the classic hit, “Takin’ Care of Business.” And Tahlequah coach Don Ogden took notice.
“The song at the end was perfect,” Ogden said. “That’s what we do; it’s taking care of business.”
Amanda Milnick, a summer move-in from Arizona, led Tahlequah with 12 kills and four blocks. Gillian Tinnin chipped in with 10 kills and five aces, and Alli George added seven kills and four aces for the Lady Tigers.
In the final set, it was both George and Tinnin that served during long scoring runs for Tahlequah.
Trailing 11-9 in the final set, Tahlequah got back on serve with a Tinnin kill that narrowed the gap to 11-10. George then served — picking up an ace along the way — as the Lady Tigers rattled off four straight points to claim a 14-12 edge.
Tahlequah would never relinquish the lead in the third set. Katie Schneider — who had a team-high 23 assists — served as Tahlequah scored five unanswered points, and Tinnin closed things out, serving as the Lady Tigers scored the final five points of the contest.
“This group has been fun to coach because they don’t allow slip-ups,” Ogden said. “They play well, and we haven’t lost to anybody that we shouldn’t have lost to.”
In the first set, Bishop Kelley — whose varsity squad was listed as hosting Edmond North on Tuesday — got within 19-15 before Tahlequah posted the final six points of the set. The Lady Tigers followed that up by going in front 15-5 in the second set and coasting to a 2-0 lead.
“Doesn’t matter who Tulsa Kelley sent,” Ogden said, “we played whoever came over here, and for us, it’s a victory over Tulsa Kelley.”
With the win, Tahlequah improves to 29-7 overall and 4-1 in the Metro Lakes Conference. The victory also assured the Lady Tigers of at least a share of the league crown with Coweta.
“We’re happy with the win,” said Ogden, whose team is the first in school history to win at least shares of back-to-back Metro Lakes Conference crowns. “And we’re very happy to set history.”
Tahlequah senior utility player Kalie Champlain said winning consecutive league titles is quite a thrill.
“Conference champs is always an honor,” said Champlain, who finished with 12 assists and a kill late in the third set to help cap off Tahlequah’s victory.
“We’re trying to make history and just get Tahlequah volleyball recognized again.”
Tahlequah will play again this week at Okay on Thursday. The Lady Tigers will cap off their home slate on Tuesday against 5A No. 6 Coweta.