‘Challenge Ahead’

Jets hope enthusiasm outweighs Lafayette Central Catholic’s experience

HOPE — The Lafayette Central Catholic team that Hauser will play in the IHSAA Volleyball State Finals features several players who were on the Knights’ 2015 state runner-up squad.

Lafayette Catholic coach Brad McCarter is hoping that experience playing at Ball State’s Worthen Arena will help his team when it plays the Jets for the Class A state title at 11 a.m. Saturday. Hauser will be making its first state finals appearance.

“I don’t know if that will be a determining factor,” McCarter said. “On our end, I hope that will be a factor, having that calmness. But when you make the state finals, it’s an eye-opening experience for any team that walks into Worthen Arena.”

The Knights, who won the Class A state title in 2010, will be making their second trip to the state finals in the past four years. They lost to Barr-Reeve in 2013 and to Christian Academy of Indiana in 2015.

Christian Academy, which has made the Class A state finals the past four years, moved up to 2A this season because of the IHSAA’s tournament success factor and will play Andrean for the 2A title following the Hauser-Lafayette Catholic matchup. The Jets beat Barr-Reeve in Saturday’s southern semistate at Columbus East.

“(Lafayette Catholic is) obviously a good team and well coached,” Hauser coach Jeff Case said. “They have some good outside hitters, kind of like Barr-Reeve. We just want to go and play the best we can and see what happens. If we play well and can make adjustments, we have to have a shot.”

Sophomore Jozee Evans leads the Knights with 314 kills and 53 aces. Senior Sami Royer has 944 assists, sophomore Kayla Brady has 58 blocks and junior libero Kacey Brickley has 284 digs.

But Lafayette Catholic has been dealing with injuries all season. Senior Allison Tharp (98 kills) is playing with a torn ACL, junior Gretchen Kuckkan (146 kills) is recovering from a broken leg and Brickley stretched ligaments and tendons in her wrist near the end of the regular season.

“We have some veteran leadership,” McCarter said. “We have good young kids. The injuries that we’ve had all year long … we’ve been hurt since June, but that’s forced some young kids to play and play well, and that’s built depth for us.”

The Class A No. 1 Knights (29-5) and No. 2 Jets (35-4) have played two common opponents. Lafayette Catholic split a pair of matches with an Indianapolis Lutheran team that Hauser beat in the regional semifinals. Both teams lost to Class 4A Greenfield-Central.

Senior Sydney Schoen, an Eastern Kentucky recruit, leads the Jets with 325 kills, 548 digs and 98 aces. Senior Alana Owen has 977 assists and 74 aces, and senior Madie Sherman has 78 blocks and 300 kills. Senior Sarah Tedder adds 208 kills, 381 digs and 64 aces.

“Hauser is going to be a brand new team for us,” McCarter said. “It will be their first time at state, so they’re going to be excited and ready to go. They’re going to be a scrappy team. They have a couple really nice hitters and a solid setter.”

Hauser already has established a school record for wins in a season. The Jets have won at least 30 games each of the past four years.

“It’s been a really good group of kids to coach,” Case said. “Their chemistry has been really good, and they get along well. It’s been a good year.”

If you go

Volleyball State Finals

Saturday at Worthen Arena, Muncie

Class A: Hauser (35-4) vs. Lafayette Central Catholic (29-5), 11 a.m.

Class 2A: Andrean (29-8) vs. Christian Academy of Indiana (34-5), 1 p.m.

Class 3A: New Castle (33-6) vs. Brebeuf Jesuit (29-9), 3 p.m.

Class 4A: Crown Point (35-3) vs. Avon (36-3), 5 p.m.

Admission: $12

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Ted Schultz is sports editor for The Republic. He can be reached at tschultz@therepublic.com or 812-379-5628.