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Top-ranked Floyd crushes Providence

September 02, 2009
For the past two years, the Floyd Central volleyball team has been on the brink of a state championship. Loaded with weapons in every zone on the floor and ranked No. 1 in Class 4A, the Lady Highlanders hope this may be their year. Last Tuesday night, they showed that it just might be, as they smoked visiting Class 2A No. 8 Providence in three games.

Floyd Central sophomore Kendall Merritt spins around to keep the ball in play against Providence in the Lady Highlanders’ three-game win against the visiting Lady Pioneers. Photo by Wade Bell
"We want to win the state championship in the worst way, and we've been very close," Floyd Central coach Bart Powell said. "We were closer last year. Two years ago, we were a good team, but everybody that was at the state finals two years ago was about the same. We were a really good team last year, and all four teams were pretty much the same. I think we've got a better chance this year."

Powell knew, however, the Lady Pioneers would come out swinging, in part because of Laura Der, who transferred to Floyd Central from Providence, and for the first few minutes, the teams played even with seven ties to 7-all. At that point, Floyd Central began to take control, going on a 9-0 run for a 16-7 lead on their way to a 25-16 win.

"I knew they were just going to play phenomenal for the first 10 minutes," Powell said of Providence. "It was 8's, then we started to inch away and got really focused."

Floyd Central jumped to a 5-1 lead in game two, but this time, the Lady Pioneers kept the game closer, down only one at 9-8, until Melanie Stutzman killed for the Lady Highlanders to start a 4-0 burst for a 13-8 lead. Providence chewed into Floyd Central's lead, pulling within four. Kirsten Kemppainen then swatted a kill to start a 5-1 run and a 21-14 Lady Highlander lead. Courtney Murphy pulled Providence within five with a pair of kills, but the Lady Pioneers then misfired on serve. From there, the Lady Highlanders cruised to win game two, 25-16.

"We're quicker this year than we were last year," Powell said. "Our serve receive is not as good as it was last year, but (sophomore) Kendall Merrit's really, really fast. She's creating speed we haven't had the last couple of years. Hopefully, we'll make a couple more plays defensively this year that we haven't in the past."

Stutzman and Der launched a barrage against the Lady Pioneers to begin the third game for an 8-2 lead. The Lady Highlanders pushed their advantage to 17-7, but Providence made a run to pull within five, 20-15, when Alexa Elliott punched in a kill. From there, however, Floyd Central rolled, allowing Providence only two more points and going on to a 25-16 win.

"We called timeout, and I kind of challenged them," Powell said. "I said, 'Come on, let's finish this,' and they scored five straight points on us and that really frustrated me because we did lose focus and we got frustrated. We've just got to worry about us and not just what happened."

Der led the Lady Highlanders with 13 kills, and Stutzman followed with 10. Jennifer Smith finished with seven kills, and Kemppainen had six. Floyd Central missed four serves, served four aces and made just eight errors.

Powell said Der and Stutzman took over like they were supposed to.

"Those two are supposed to step up," the Floyd Central coach said. "Jennifer Smith had an off night tonight. … Mel is a pretty good pressure player. This summer, we played a little bit, and when the game was on the line, Mel kind of took the game over. So, she feeds on the pressure. But you've got to have six that can play under pressure and not just one."

Ashley Ricks led Prov-idence with 12 kills, Elliott had 10, and Brittany Pierce finished with eight. The Lady Pioneers missed four serves but had only two aces. Providence committed 25 errors.

Powell said his team knows having a top ranking makes it a major target, but added his team feeds on that kind of pressure.

"They wanted to be No. 1, and why wouldn't you want to be No. 1," Powell said. "With being No. 1 comes added pressure. We've got a target on our back. Again, we'll see how much of a team that makes us, because we know we're going to get everyone's best every time we go out on the court. They're going to want to kick our butt. That will help us find out what kind of team we really are; can we play under pressure every night? If we can, obviously it's going to really, really help us."

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