By KEVIN HARRIS
The Floyd Central and Seymour volleyball teams will meet again in the Class 4A Seymour Sectional.
Only this time the Hoosier Hills Conference foes will square off in the semifinals instead of the championship match.
Both the Highlanders and the Owls won their respective first-round matches on Thursday night at Scott Gym. Floyd Central swept Jeffersonville in the sectional opener, 25-14, 25-6, 25-6. Class 4A No. 9 Seymour then held off New Albany in Thursday’s nightcap, 25-12, 24-26, 25-23, 25-20.
The Owls won last year’s sectional final against the Highlanders in five sets at New Albany, 16-25, 20-25, 25-14, 27-25, 15-10.
Despite the return of All-State outside hitter Catlin Lilly to the lineup, the Bulldogs (20-12) could not find a way to oust the defending sectional champion Owls.
New Albany made an inspired effort to get back in the match in the second set after falling in set one. After trailing 8-2, the Bulldogs fought back to pull within one point at 21-20.
Following a brief two-point run by Seymour to go up 23-20, New Albany scored four unanswered point to take its first lead of the match at 24-23.
Seymour’s Abby Speer tied the set at 24 with a kill. But back-to-back kills by Lilly and Nicole Jones gave the Bulldogs the two-point win in the second.
“Before the set, we talked about having energy and confidence,” New Albany coach John Breeding said. “Another thing about the second game was our serve-reception was a lot better. In the first game, we played tense and nervous and did not have a lot of energy. But we played better after that first game.”
The Bulldogs appeared to be on their way to going up two sets to one late in the third set. Alexis Lete delivered a kill to put New Albany up 21-18. But the Owls scored seven of the set’s final nine points to claim the set.
Seymour took the lead for good at 23-22 when Megan Kimbley spiked one of her 15 kills.
“In the third [set], we let that one get away from us. That took a lot out of us,” Breeding said.
Seymour built a 19-13 advantage in the fourth set, but the Bulldogs got to within two at 21-19 on a Jones kill. That was as close as New Albany got, as the Owls sealed the victory with a 4-1 run.
“We’ve had more than our share of injuries this season, but I thought the kids played with a lot of heart,” Breeding said. “It was the first time we had 12 players in a long time.”
One of the players who have been battling injuries is Lilly. The senior played for the first time since the start of this month, as she has been coping with a sprained ankle.
Lilly gave a gutsy performance while dealing with the pain, smacking 19 kills and making 13 digs.
“That was a very bad ankle sprain she played with,” Breeding said. “I thought she had an outstanding performance under those circumstances. Catlin is a very, very competitive person.”
Jones had 16 kills and 11 digs, while teammate Sara Schad made 14 digs. New Albany setter McKenzie Prince distributed 38 assists.
New Albany says goodbye to five seniors in Lilly, Jones, Prince, Schad and Samantha Miszkiel.
The Highlanders’ balanced offensive attack got the best of the Red Devils (10-22).
Floyd Central (21-12) had five players with at least five kills. Freshman middle hitter Gwyn Jones had eight kills and three blocks, while teammate Remi Bowman smacked seven kills. Junior Sydney Engle made six kills and three blocks, teammate Lauren Koopman had six kills and Highlander senior Jordan Alvey delivered five kills.
Bowman dished out 27 assists and Alvey had five service aces.
“It’s hard to stop Floyd Central when you give them free balls,” Jeff coach Tim Cox said. “We gave them too many free-ball chances in the second and third games.”
The Red Devils hung tough with Floyd Central in the first set. Jeff trailed 9-7 before the Highlanders closed out the set 16-7.
“Tim does good job with his program and they made some nice plays at the beginning,” Floyd Central coach Bart Powell said.
The Highlanders got control of the second set right from the outset. They scored the set’s first seven points and led 10-1. Floyd Central also had a solid start to the third set, as it scored the set’s first four points and built a 13-4 advantage.
Powell credited his team’s serving for getting early leads in the final two sets.
“We’ve served a little bit tougher this year,” he said. “We make five- to six-point runs because we make tough serves.”
Sam Grider paced the Red Devils with six kills, while teammate Avery Brumit had five. Jeff setter Jena Reinhardt distributed 11 assists. On defense, Jeff’s Marley Edwards made 12 digs and Sara Garwood had six.
“We came out like gangbusters,” Cox said. “We played with them right away and we were really good defensively in the first game. We had a lot of energy in the first game. We knew Floyd Central would come back hard [in the second set]. I’m proud of the kids for the way they hung with them in game one.”
Jeff says goodbye to five seniors in Brumit, Grider, Ally Whitlow, Samantha Keeling and Shelby Rose.
CLASS 4A SEYMOUR SECTIONAL
FLOYD CENTRAL 25 25 25
JEFFERSONVILLE 14 6 6
Aces — Floyd Central: Jordan Alvey 5.
Assists — Floyd Central: Remi Bowman 27; Jeff: Jena Reinhardt 11.
Blocks — Floyd Central: Sydney Engle 3, Gwyn Jones 3.
Digs — Jeff: Marley Edwards 12.
Kills — Floyd Central: Jones 8; Jeff: Sam Grider 6.
NEW ALBANY 12 26 23 20
SEYMOUR 25 24 25 25
Aces — New Albany: Samantha Miszkiel 2, Catlin Lilly 2, McKenzie Prince 2; Seymour: Chandler Clark 2.
Assists — New Albany: Prince 38.
Blocks — New Albany: Lilly 1; Seymour: Megan Kimbley 3, Abby Speer 3.
Digs — New Albany: Sara Schad 14.
Kills — New Albany: Lilly 19; Seymour: Kimbley 15.