By KEVIN HARRIS
Everyone associated with the Floyd Central and Seymour volleyball programs anticipated an ultra-competitive matchup between both teams on Tuesday night at Scott Gym.
Each squad entered the match undefeated and ranked in the latest Indiana Coaches of Girls Sports Association Class 4A poll.
The match lived up to its billing.
Class 4A No. 5 Floyd Central won two of the first three sets. But the Highlanders could not hold on as the seventh-ranked Owls rallied to claim the final two sets and prevail 17-25, 25-22, 17-25, 25-23, 15-9.
It was the first of possibly three meetings between the Hoosier Hills Conference rivals this season. Floyd Central and Seymour could face each other again in the HHC Tournament and the Class 4A Floyd Central Sectional. The Owls (10-0) have eliminated the Highlanders (4-1) from the postseason each of the past two seasons.
“It was going to be a battle and we knew that,” Seymour coach Angie Lucas said. “That’s just how it is with us and Floyd. It makes us better and I hope they feel they got better tonight. It’s just a good competitive match and hate to see somebody lose because there were great plays both ways.”
The Highlanders seemed to be in pretty good shape late in the fourth set. They forced a sideout on a kill by junior setter Remi Bowman to give them a 21-18 lead, but the Owls reeled off three consecutive points to deadlock the set at 21.
After Sydney Engle delivered a kill to put the Highlanders up 22-21, Seymour went on another 3-0 run to take a 24-22 advantage.
Following an Engle kill that gave Floyd Central a sideout, Owls’ middle hitter Audrey Speer deadlocked the match at two sets apiece with a kill.
“Rather than finishing, we were moping. You can’t do that — you can’t do that against a good team in their building,” Highlanders’ coach Bart Powell said. “We just weren’t taking the same kind of swings that we were taking earlier in the match.”
Seymour carried the momentum of the fourth-set victory into the decisive game. The Owls scored the first two points of the set and pulled out to an 8-4 lead.
Trailing 10-6, Floyd Central got within one by scoring three consecutive points to pull within 10-9, but Seymour finished the Highlanders off with a 5-0 spurt thanks to a pair of kills by sophomore Chandler Clark and blocks by Emilee Pollmann and Megan Kimbley.
Lucas said the difference for the Owls down the stretch was their improved blocking.
“Our blocking finally came through. Finally, we started blocking the ball like we can, and then we were dominating on their backside, too,” she said.
Powell refused to believe that fatigue got the best of his players in the closing stages.
“I don’t think we were spent. I just don’t think we believed we could win,” Powell said. “Seymour believed they could win and that group has always believed they could win. We’re just going to have to find a way to beat them.”
Floyd Central was in control of most of the match. The Highlanders went on a 6-0 run midway through the first set to go up 20-12 and proceeded to win the opening game.
Floyd Central led for most of Set 2 before the Owls tied the match the game at 20. After that, Seymour outscored the Highlanders 5-2 the rest of the way to capture the set.
In the third set, Floyd Central led for a good majority of the game as it prevented the Owls to get on any runs during the set.
“We came out really flat tonight, and I think a lot of that was because we played in a really tough tournament this weekend, where it was very hot,” Lucas said. “But I think the resiliency of this team just absolutely was not going to let them to lose on this court tonight. I think that drove them to do their very best.”
Engle led the Highlanders with 14 kills and five blocks, while teammate Tierney Flaherty had 12 kills. Bowman ended up with eight kills and four blocks.
Hayden Dailey paced the Owls with 21 kills, while Kimbley had 11 kills and seven blocks. Seymour setter Jessica Lucas had 50 assists and eight blocks.
Floyd Central will visit another undefeated HHC team on Thursday when it plays 9-0 Bedford North Lawrence.
FLOYD CENTRAL 25 22 25 23 9
SEYMOUR 17 25 17 25 15
Aces — Floyd Central (Brooke Hinton 2); Seymour (Jessica Lucas 1, Hayden Dailey 1, Megan Kimbley 1, Chandler Clark 1).
Blocks — Floyd Central (Sydney Engle 5, Remi Bowman 4, Mikaila Humphrey 2); Seymour (Lucas 8, Kimbley 7).
Kills — Floyd Central (Engle 14, Tierney Flaherty 12, Bowman 8, Lauren Koopman 7, Hannah Holy 6); Seymour (Dailey 21, Kimbley 11).