By BRYAN GASKINS and JOSH SIGLER Kokomo Tribune
---- — The IHSAA state volleyball tournament is ready to swing into action. Sectionals open tonight with finals set for Saturday night.
Three Howard County teams are in action tonight — Northwestern and Western square off at 6 p.m. in the Class 3A Peru Sectional opener, and Taylor faces Elwood at 7 p.m. in the Class 2A Madison-Grant Sectional opener.
The following are looks at sectionals around the area.
class 3A PERU SECTIONAL
The seven-team field at Peru features four Mid-Indiana Conference squads and three Hoosier Conference squads. The first two matches are MIC-vs.-MIC matchups — Northwestern vs. Western tonight, and Peru vs. league champion Maconaquah at 6 p.m. Thursday.
“I think it will be a competitive sectional,” Mac coach Jessica Metcalf said. “I think with four of the teams being in the MIC, we all have a preview of each other.”
Northwestern went 2-0 against Western in the regular season. The Tigers took a 25-17, 25-15, 25-22 win in league play, and a 25-13, 25-11, 25-14 win in the Howard County Tournament.
“We beat them this season so I’m hoping as long as these girls go in knowing they’re still going to have to play a tough game, we’ll be OK,” Northwestern coach Trina Yager said. “It’s sectionals and teams step up in the sectionals and play a lot different than they do during the regular season, I think. So we’ll have to play well.”
Northwestern (14-12) built a little bit of momentum by playing well in the closing weeks of the regular season. The Northwestern-Western winner will face Twin Lakes in the semifinal round. The Tigers beat the Indians 15-25, 25-23, 14-25, 25-21, 17-15 last week.
“I think these girls have it in them to go pretty far in that sectional and even win, as long as they play their game,” Yager said. “We just have to keep our heads in the game and stay focused on what we know we need to do.”
Western, which features a senior-less squad, has six wins on the season.
“The season has been up and down,” Western coach Nicky Rodman said, noting a string of injuries has kept the Panthers from fielding a consistent rotation. “We’ve kind of been on a roller-coaster ride, just getting everyone motivated and staying positive. But it’s a good group of girls who are really capable of rebounding and when being put to the test, I feel like they can come through. They just have to believe.
“We were excited about the draw because it’s a school that we’ve seen twice. We definitely have a game plan because of that as opposed to [facing an unknown opponent],” Rodman added.
Maconaquah (21-11) went 7-0 en route to the MIC title. The Braves are hoping to add sectional hardware this week.
“Our girls are feeling pretty confident. We’ve changed up our lineup a little bit. We’ve done some adjustments with our offense so it runs a little quicker and I think that will be to our benefit,” Metcalf said.
The Braves swept the Bengal Tigers in three sets in MIC play, but Metcalf noted it was the Braves’ second match of the season. She has stressed to her team that both teams are different now.
Metcalf is looking for her squad to hit on all cylinders.
“We definitely know how to play with intensity. We definitely know how to run a quick offense. We are scrappy. Now it’s putting all those things together,” she said. “If we do put them all together, then our chances look pretty good. But we have to go one game at a time.”
Class 4A Logansport Sectional
The Logansport Sectional opens Thursday with McCutcheon vs. Lafayette Jeff at 6 p.m., followed by Kokomo vs. the host Berries. The winners will meet in a semifinal at 11 a.m. Saturday. Marion and Harrison drew byes and will meet in the second seminfinal.
Kokomo is 13-19, but coach Jason Watson knows that record could be quite a bit better. The VolleyKats dropped five-set matches to Northwestern, Richmond, Tipton and Maconaquah.
“That’s been kind of tough, but we’ve been able to win a few of those close ones, too,” Watson said. “We see what causes us to miss those opportunities. We were playing not to lose instead of being aggressive and playing to win. Hopefully that’ll pay off experience-wise in the sectional.”
The Kats beat Logansport in four sets in North Central Conference play. Logansport’s top two offensive players, Syd Bullard and Nekaya Penny, did not play in that decisive fourth set.
“I don’t see that that was much of an impact,” Watson said. “The No. 1 thing about the rematch is that we’re playing them at Logansport. We played them at home before. Those kids are going to be ready to play and want some revenge against us. We’re going to have to come out and lay it all on the line and realize we’re still the underdog playing in their house. We’re all going to have to play well together for us to have a chance to win.”
• Kokomo beat Peru 25-10, 25-15, 25-20 Monday to close the regular season on a winning note. Tori Lauderbaugh had 14 kills, Kirsten Frey and Alanis Jones had seven kills apiece, Miranda Ogle had 23 assists and Amanda Tran offered 10 digs and 19 service receptions.
Class 2A Alexandria Sectional
The Alexandria Sectional opens tonight with one match, Taylor vs. Elwood at 7 p.m. The opening round continues Thursday with Tipton vs. Eastern at 6 p.m. followed by No. 5-ranked Alex vs. Sheridan. Co-No. 6 Madison-Grant drew a bye into the semifinal round and will face the Taylor-Elwood winner at 11 a.m. Saturday.
Taylor wrapped up its regular season Monday, falling to Tri-Central 25-17, 25-23, 25-10. Hannah Mullinax had 12 service points for Taylor and Kim Seal had 10 points and five kills.
“I was impressed with my kids [Monday]. They came out and played hard and put themselves in a situation to win the first two sets and although it didn’t happen, they played hard and played smart, which is something we have been working on,” Taylor coach Denise Leicht said. “It was senior night and we have had good leadership this year. I just wish in terms of wins and losses we had more to show for it. We have improved over the past couple years.”
Eastern (17-11) enters the postseason on a three-game slide after claiming a Howard County Tournament championship two weekends ago.
“I felt like we had some momentum going,” Eastern coach Missy Mavrick said. “We were playing a lot of matches and had a break. It was nervous about it and I thought it hurt us. I think something that’s really been hurting us is our energy. We need to work on getting our energy back up. We need to clean up our block and be more aggressive with our hitting. It’s some little things. There were a lot of matches where we were right there and just let it slip through our fingertips. If we increase our energy level, those matches go our way.”
Eastern will open sectional play against a Tipton (20-11) squad that defeated the Comets in four sets early in the season, 25-17, 24-26, 25-16, 25-15.
“We had them early in the season and we were still pretty rusty,” Mavrick said. “I’m sure they’ve made a lot of adjustments and improvements. They have Kacie Juday, who is most definitely a gamer. She’s always aggressive in the front row and is a good athlete. We need to make sure we take her seriously and get blocks up against her. She really hurt us in the first game. They are very scrappy, but we need to do a better job of putting the ball down against them and expose some of their weaknesses. We didn’t do a good job of that the first time. Not letting balls hit the floor will help keep the momentum going our way. When we get a lead we need to keep it and finish sets and matches out.”
Around the area
Cass plays in the Class 2A North Miami Sectional and opens against co-No. 6-ranked Southwood at 6 p.m. Thursday.
Clinton Central plays in the Class 2A Southmont Sectional and opens against Riverton Parke at 7:30 p.m. Thursday.
Tri-Central and Carroll play in the Class A Clinton Prairie Sectional. TC (16-15) opens against Rossville at 7:30 p.m. Thursday. Carroll is in the bye game opposite Frontier at 12:30 p.m. Saturday.
In TC’s 25-17, 25-23, 25-10 victory over Taylor on Monday, Shelby Ramsey led the Trojans with 10 kills, Whitney Revolt had nine kills, Hadley DeWeese had eight blocks and Haley Farris had 17 points and 32 digs.