Lady Highlanders thump New Albany
By Wade Bell, Sports Writer
It had been a hard-fought last few days for the Floyd Central Lady Highlanders volleyball team before going into its match against county rival New Albany Thursday night. On Monday night, Floyd Central had gone five games at Silver Creek to win a Labor Day slug-fest, then two nights later went five games against fifth-ranked 2A Barr-Reeve, which resulted in a 16-14 loss in the fifth set.
Floyd Central coach Bart Powell had plenty to be concerned about going into their match with the Lady Bulldogs.
“Monday we were just really lethargic, and then last night we played our best match of the year and got beat,” said Powell. “It was an emotional match that I’m going to say that both teams scored about 115 points. … There were rallies last night that went over a minute, and I’m going to say there were about 10 of them. So, emotionally we were really drained from last night. That’s not what you want coming into a New Albany match. So, I knew we would be flat coming out. New Albany wasn’t flat at all. They were ready to play.”
The Lady Highlanders, however, didn’t let Powell down. Floyd Central put the hammer down for a three-game sweep to go 4-0 in the Hoosier Hills Conference race.
“They just needed to get rolling a little bit,” said Powell after doing 20 push ups for his players. “I’m hoping to get to 35. A couple of years ago I did that and after every win you get five. We get five each time we get a conference win.”
New Albany came out with some ambition to begin the match and led through the majority of the first game, at one point building a 16-11 lead. Kayden Holcomb, Caroline Hilbrich and Kylie Minnis all punched in kills to close the gap to two, 16-14, forcing the Lady Bulldogs to call timeout.
Following the break, the two teams battled to a 19-19 tie following Floyd Central kills by Hilbrich and Kaylee Hunt. Floyd Central hit out on the next sideout, but Hunt and Jenna Heidbreder killed again in response, giving the Lady Highlanders a 21-20 lead. Floyd Central controlled from that point on, and Courtney Combs drilled a service ace for the 25-21 win.
“Normally in a match like this, when you get behind two or three, I’m calling timeout, but I let them kind of get into the flow of the game a little bit,” said Powell. “Then, we did and they rolled.”
“After we took a big loss to them last year going into five sets, we said we can’t do that anymore,” said Combs. “We have to full throttle this game and win.”
There were five lead changes in the early going of game two, then the Lady Highlanders gave themselves a little bit of breathing room with a 10-6 edge following two New Albany errors. After the Lady Bulldogs closed the game back to two, Hilbrich ripped a kill and two service aces, pushing Floyd Central’s advantage back to five, 15-10. New Albany closed the gap to three at one point but failed to get any closer with the Lady Highlanders getting a 25-17 win.
New Albany got an initial 3-1 lead in game three, but it didn’t last long. The Lady Highlanders quickly rallied to take control with kills from Mandy Hess and Natalie Lostutter. Floyd Central dominated the remainder of the set, taking a double-digit lead, going on for a 25-11 game and match win.
“It’s a good win,” said Powell. “We’ve had a good week. Last night was our best match of the year to the second best team that we’ve played this year. So, we’ve gotten beat by two teams that weren’t as good as the team that beat us last night. We’re improving … ”
Hunt, Hilbrich and Kayden Holcomb led the Lady Highlanders with eight kills each, and Heidbreder, Minnis and Natalie Lostutter had four kills each. Floyd Central missed six kills and punched in six aces. The Lady Highlanders had 11 errors for the match. Powell said Holcomb was turning into a strong leader for the team.
“She led us last night (against Barr-Reeve),” he said. “She was playing hard last night, and they followed. She’s a good, quiet leader that has a lot of energy, and they follow her lead. That’s why I said last night was so emotional. I’m going to say Kayden took 50 swings last night probably but we came out of it.”
Tess Owsley led the Lady Bulldogs with nine kills, and Alexis Caldwell finished with seven kills. Kamori Knight added four kills for New Albany, which missed 11 serves and had three aces. The Lady Bulldogs had 20 errors for the three games.
“We definitely want to come out on top this year because we lost a lot of really good seniors last year,” said Combs. “So, we have me, Kayden, Anna (Hilbrich) and Livi (Lancaster), and we’re trying to get this team together as much as we can and come out on top this year.”