Oak Ridge faces rebuilding after losing 11 seniors last year


Oak Ridge volleyball coach Tommie Lynne Sledge has been through a bit of everything in his coaching career.

She led the War Eagles to back-to-back state tournament appearances in 2015 and 2016. She left Oak Ridge to start another program from scratch in Lake Creek in 2018.

And now, in his second year back at Oak Ridge, Sledge will have experienced what it’s like to lose just about an entire roster for graduation.

“I never had 11 seniors and I never had those seniors at the heart of everything,” Sledge said. “For these girls, it was very exciting. Of those 11 seniors, there wasn’t a big core that had seen the pitch (before the season). We were kind of young last year in the rhythm of the game. They really stepped up and it was exciting to see. It is definitely a year of reconstruction.

This team went 27-18. With a fourth-place finish in District 13-6A, the War Eagles reached the playoffs for the 10th straight year and won the bi-district title for the seventh straight time.

The War Eagles’ top eight leaders for kills, top seven leaders for aces, top eight leaders for blocks, top seven leaders for digs, and six of the top seven leaders for assists have all moved on.

“It’s going to be a great pre-season just to see where people are coming out and who are stepping in and where the growth is,” Sledge said. “Not that we have too much time with the district from August 23. But it’s just exciting. I love the process and the difficulty of seeing people rise to the challenge and things like that. It’s definitely going one of those years.

Oak Ridge will have three seniors with varying levels of college experience, including a move-in. There was a freshman from last year who rose quickly through college and a few others who Sledge says will produce this year.

Caroline Woodfill moves to Oak Ridge from Willis and gives the War Eagles a senior defensive specialist who had 350 varsity digs last year.

“She’s just a ball of energy,” Sledge said. “It’s very refreshing to have him with the girls. The girls kissed her and she kissed Oak Ridge. Her nickname is “Sunshine” and she brings it every day. »

Sophomore Bradi Rhodes rose through the ranks last year and stayed in college for the final weeks of the season.

“She’s come a fast way,” Sledge said. “She started on the freshman team, played a bit on JV and finished the college season getting playing time. She played in the playoffs. She will only be in her second year. It is definitely part of the future and the growth that surrounds it.

Junior midfielder Luvina Oguntimehin also has advantages.

“She’s had a really good offseason,” Sledge said. “She is part of the ’10 foot club’. She climbs up there and reaches. This will be his first time with the speed of the game at the college level. But she’s definitely a big block and someone we’re going to lean on.

Both Alexus Opper and Kennedy Mills are seniors with some college experience last year. Both are defensive specialists and Mills can also play as an outside hitter.

Gabrielle Santiago is part of a core of freshmen for whom Sledge envisions great things.

“The future for Oak Ridge is going to be really bright with some of these young players,” Sledge said. “She’s definitely going to be an impact player for us.”

District 13-6A added three teams this year, which will make for a much longer district season this year than the past two years with just six teams and four playoff berths up for grabs.

Alongside defending champion College Park District, rivals in the Woodlands and Grand Oaks, an experienced Conroe team and a scrappy Willis team, the War Eagles will now also face Caney Creek, New Caney and Cleveland.

“I think it’s awesome,” Sledge said. “With the exception of a year, I don’t think I’ve been in such a big district. For us, it’s going to add a lot of value because we’re going to have games to grow and learn. We will be able to bounce back and regenerate faster. But it’s going to be a tough year. »

Oak Ridge plays in three local tournaments in August – Katy/Cy-Fair, Spring ISD the latest in Dayton. The regular season begins August 9 at home against Summer Creek.

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