By BEN JOHNSON
Don Ogden could not have been more complimentary of Tahlequah's home crowd on Tuesday night.
"We feel like we have one of the best volleyball atmospheres in the country, with our student body that gets involved," said Tahlequah's volleyball coach. "Our players love to play at home. They play with a higher intensity. So it's nice to see the spirit come back to Tahlequah."
Tahlequah, ranked seventh in Class 5A, has one more home match left in the regular season. The Lady Tigers will host 5A No. 6 Coweta to cap off regular-season play.
Ogden and his team, though, are hoping it won't be the final time they host opponent during the current campaign.
"There's one more poll to go," Ogden said, describing the coaches' poll on OSSAArankings.com, which will determine if Tahlequah gets to host a regional or if the Lady Tigers have to venture out on the road during postseason play.
"That poll will determine the top four in the east, and we're working hard to make sure that everyone is aware that the teams that have been voted ahead of us — like Coweta, we've beaten them two out of three [times this year] — we just want to make sure everyone looks at those schedules."
Through 36 matches this season, Tahlequah is 29-7. However, Tahlequah has only played five of those at home — winning all five of them.
But that was by design, Ogden said.
"We were going to be on the road a lot, and I wanted to be so battled tested from that. And I wanted to be able to earn the right to play at home [in the playoffs]," Ogden said. "Then, we would obviously be on the road for a state tournament, so we tried to schedule as tough as we could to battle-test them. Obviously, 29-7 shows that they've got out and played everybody."
Lincoln Christian and Victory Christian appear to be locks to host a regional on Oct. 8. However, the final two hosting spots in the east could still be up for grabs.
Landing a regional tournament at home would be fortuitous, and Ogden's players know that.
"It's a really big deal to host a regional," Tahlequah's Kalie Champlain said following Tahlequah's 3-0 win over Bishop Kelley on Tuesday. "That would give us the best chance to go to the state tournament."
Tahlequah's last appearance in the state tournament was 2009, and Ogden is hoping with one more chance to show off his home crowd, it'll catapult the Lady Tigers to the final weekend of the season.
"We're breathing down the neck of Coweta and Cascia (Hall)," said Ogden, whose club is tied with Cascia Hall in the 5A poll and two spots behind Coweta.
"...And we hope to be one of those top four in the east, so we can come back (home) and play one more time."