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Valkaries win battle over Floyd

September 17, 2008
Like two bull moose on an Alaskan hillside, the fifth-ranked (Indiana 4A) Floyd Central Lady Highlanders and Kentucky's third-ranked Sacred Heart Valkaries slammed heads together in a five-game slugfest last Tuesday that saw the Valkaries put a 'W' in the win column. It was a match where everybody who attended got their money's worth.

"It was a great match," Floyd coach Bart Powell said. "I just hate to be on the losing end."

Floyd Central's Katy Schad (23) had 28 kills against visiting Sacred Heart, but it wasn't enough to stop the Valkaries, who won in a five-game smackdown. (Photo by Wade Bell)
In game one the two teams played to a 12-12 tie, then Sacred Heart pounded in a 6-1 run for an 18-13 lead. It was a run the Lady Highlanders never recovered from as the Valkaries went on to win the game 25-15.

Sacred Heart also held the lead through most of game two until Lindsey Ragland dropped a couple of kills for a 17-15 Floyd lead. The Valkaries came back to tie, then Emily Juhl pounded in a kill for an 18-17 Valkarie advantage. Kesley Dunaway pushed the Sacred Heart lead to 21-18. Floyd got within two with kills by Jennifer Smith and Ashlie Haworth, but the Valkaries went on to capture game 25-21.

"They were very flat and tentative in definitely the first one and maybe half of the second one," Powell said. "At the end of game two, I just said, 'You guys need to play with some urgency and play like this is the end.' They did."

Game three was nothing more than each team pounding the ball back and forth at each other. The diggers played a major part in the game, particularly Brittany Wilson, who hit the deck twice along the right sideline to keep the ball in play. After 15 ties and six lead changes, the heavy smoke cleared to see the Lady Highlanders on top with a 25-21 win.

"Once they were in game three, they realized they could play with them," Powell said. "I don't understand why they think that we couldn't play with them. We scrimmaged Assumption in the summer and we did OK against them."

Floyd got the early jump on the Valkaries in game four, but Sacred Heart quickly showed why it is ranked third in Kentucky play, rallying to tie the game at six then rush to a 13-7 lead. Juhl kept Sacred Heart up by five, 17-12, but a scoring tip by Olivia Allen sparked the Lady Highlanders to come back for a 19-19 tie. Ragland punched in a kill to put Floyd back on top. Floyd went up by two, 22-20, after a Sacred Heart hitting error. Dunaway killed twice to tie the game. Katy Schad then fired in kills to keep Floyd in front and a Valkarie hitting error in the end gave the Lady Highlanders a 26-24 win, sending the match into a deciding fifth game.

"I was inspired that we were down 0-2 and came back and made it a two-hour match other than an hour match," Powell said. "We could have folded."

The two teams traded points until Juhl punched in a kill for a 9-7 lead in the fifth game. Schad got back-to-back kills to tie the game at nine. Juhl tipped to score, but Schad answered again with another kill to tie at 10. The Lady Highlanders then served out of bounds and Juhl punched in two quick kills. Following a timeout, Juhl came back in to block for a third straight kill. Shelby King finished the match with a service ace as Sacred Heart got the 15-10 win for the match.

"That's the toughest team we've played, obviously, and that's why I play those people," Powell said. "It's to figure out what we're doing wrong and what we're doing right against good teams. We've got several things we're going to fix."

It was a hitters' night, with Floyd's Schad punching in 28 kills in the five games. Ragland followed with nine kills, and Smith had six kills. Kirstin Kemppainen had five kills and Melanie Stutsman finished with four kills and three services aces. Floyd missed just three serves in the five games but only had five aces. The Lady Highlanders finished with 20 errors.

"We had big swings, but there were several streaks in game four and in game five where we really didn't swing at the ball," Powell said. "We were feeding them and just letting them slam it down our throats. It was tied at 10, and they scored the last five. We gave the ball back to them two or three times, and, of course, when you've got a hitter like Juhl, she's the real deal. You can't give good teams the ball back like that and watch them jam it down your throat."

Sacred Heart's Juhl proved her worth with 32 kills and three service aces. Kelsey Dunaway had 20 kills, and Abbi Williams had 10 kills. Elisa Burkman added five kills. Sacred Heart misfired on 10 service attempts but had 10 aces. The Valkaries made 24 errors.

"She took some air off it, and she's got a great arm swing," Powell said of Juhl. "She's not the normal tip person, but when she was up, she could read it and she's got that swing tip and stops on the ball. She's a really nice athlete to be able to do that. You don't see that many college kids taking that full swing and stopping it on the ball and tipping it like that. That's very effective, especially when you're dug in because it's coming at a million miles an hour. You're not moving your feet because you've got to be set."

"She did take over," Powell said. "Good players take over like that."

Powell said his team did do better against the Sacred Heart standout in the second half of the match until the end of the fifth game.

"It's a hitter's mentality, if you get blocked, you start thinking a little bit," Powell said. "We did stuff her a couple of times. … We got her two or three times in game four and frustrated her a little bit. We didn't get her one time in game five. She wasn't frustrated, and you like to frustrate hitters with the block. It didn't happen. That's where things changed. It was a valiant effort, though. I'm proud of us."

Powell said, however, there is still plenty to work on.

"Our right side block is all over the place," he said. "Blocking is taking up space. This is what blockers do. If you block the ball, it's a bonus, but you've got to get it closed. If you don't get it closed then, defensively, we're guessing. When the ball gets closed and the defense gets set, then you can dig balls. We're not closing the block as well as we need to be closing it. Defensively, on serve receive I thought our girls were good."

"We did a lot of nice things tonight, and I'm proud of them," Powell said. "I hate to lose, but, hopefully, this will make us better down the road."

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