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October 5, 2013

H.S. VOLLEYBALL: Floyd Central finishes off Owls in HHC Tourney final

Highlanders capture conference title for first time since ‘08

JEFFERSONVILLE — In its first meeting with Seymour during the 2013 season on Sept. 3 at Scott Gym, the Floyd Central volleyball team blew a two-sets-to-one lead and lost to the Owls in five games.

But on Saturday in the Hoosier Hills Conference Tournament final at Johnson Arena, the Class 4A No. 7 Highlanders found a way to finish off the Class 4A No. 6 Owls this time.

Floyd Central captured its first conference championship since 2008 with a 25-19, 25-20 victory.

“[Seymour] made good comebacks in both games, but we didn’t mentally fall apart like we’ve fallen apart in the past,” Highlanders’ coach Bart Powell said. “It is a strong year for the conference. That should give us a lot of confidence for the end of the year although we do go to Carmel [for a tournament] in a couple of weeks, and I guess that will assess where we’re at. But I’m happy for the girls and I’m happy for the senior class.”

Leading 21-18 in the first set, Floyd Central (17-8) closed it out with a 4-1 run to take Game 1.

In the second set with a 12-10 advantage, the Highlanders went on another 4-1 spurt thanks to three consecutive Owl attack errors to go up 16-11.

Seymour trimmed its deficit to 20-19 when Floyd Central sophomore Kayli Dempster committed a service error.

But the Highlanders sewed up the HHC title with a match-clinching 5-1 run. During the spurt, junior setter Remi Bowman had a tip kill, senior Brooke Hinton delivered a service ace and senior Sydney Engle secured match point with a kill.

Floyd Central opened the tournament by defeating Class 4A No. 9 and defending HHC champion Columbus East, 25-20, 25-14. It was the first meeting of the season between the squads. The Highlanders proceeded to upend Jennings County in the semifinals, 25-10, 25-23.

“On defense and serve-receive, we were very good. Our serve-receive was exceptional today, and that’s what makes you or breaks you,” Powell said. “We’ve got hitters and if we can pass the ball, we’re going to be successful. We did that all day. I think we went 2 1/2 games without sending a free ball over the net, and that shows you how good we were passing the ball today.”

On the day for Floyd Central, senior Tierney Flaherty spiked 20 kills and served three aces, Gwyn Jones made 17 kills, Mikaila Humphrey had 15 kills and Engle ended up with 19 digs, 14 kills and six blocks.

Also for the Highlanders, Hinton made 34 digs, Bowman dished out 67 assists and had 19 digs, senior Riley Kaiser made 23 digs and Dempster contributed 14 digs.

Powell gave lots of credit to his seniors for bringing home the conference championship.

“Sydney Engle finally led us [against Seymour]. She put us on her back and passed a heck of a lot of balls. That’s something she has never done and I’m proud of her for that,” Powell said. “In the Columbus East match, another senior Tierney Flaherty put us on her back. It was something that I’ve seen before, but I haven’t seen that kind of leadership out of [Engle and Flaherty]. We also saw that out of Brooke.”

New Albany wound up seventh in the tournament as it defeated host Jeffersonville in the seventh-place match, 25-18, 25-15. The Bulldogs (10-14) suffered a 25-20, 25-19 first-round loss to Bedford North Lawrence and then fell in the consolation semifinals to Madison, 20-25, 26-24, 25-22.

New Albany coach John Breeding said his players had their good and bad moments on Saturday.

“At times, we played really well today. But at times, we let things get away from us,” Breeding said. “Right now, our problem is finishing matches. We’ll just keep working at it.

“Our season has been like a roller coaster — we’re up and down.”

Breeding said the HHC, which is known as one of Indiana’s strongest volleyball conferences, is even better this season. Along with Floyd Central, Columbus East and Seymour being ranked in the top 10 of the Indiana Coaches of Girls Sports Association Class 4A poll, Bedford and Madison are outside of the top 10 in the 4A and 3A polls, respectively.

“The conference is as strong as it has ever been. There are some really nice players on each team. It’s good for us to play tough teams,” Breeding said.

No New Albany statistics were available at press time.

The Red Devils lost their opening-round match to Jennings County, 25-23, 25-18. Jeff then lost its consolation semi to the Columbus East, 25-14, 25-18.

For the tournament, Red Devil senior Hannah Samuel made 12 digs and Jeff senior Makenzi Johnson spiked eight kills.

Jeff coach Renee Stock says her players are trying to put together a complete match at this point in the 2013 campaign.

“Our passing is what killed us today. They are having a hard time putting everything together,” said Stock, who is in her first season of her second stint as the Red Devils’ coach. “The girls are having a hard time finishing a game. They push hard for 15-20 points and then they let up. They don’t have that mindset of pushing through the whole game. But they’re improving in every game we play. They are doing bigger and better things every time we play.”

Despite her team’s eighth-place finish, Stock praised a handful of her players for their efforts on Saturday.

“Shelby Moore stepped in and had several blocks. Jena Reinhardt did a good job today, especially during the last two games when our passing ran her all over the court,” said Stock, who also lauded Jeff junior outside hitter Brooklyn Garrison.

Floyd Central will host Louisville Male on Tuesday. New Albany will entertain Class 2A No. 1 Providence on Tuesday. The Red Devils will host Christian Academy on Monday.

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