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Jennings Sunday: Jennings County volleyball team excited about upcoming sectional

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Susan Kinney and her Jennings County volleyball players are trying to discover momentum before the sectional begins this week at Seymour.

“Volleyball is a game of momentum,” she said. “Whoever has the momentum usually wins, even if they’re tired.”

Momentum will be a key in determining the sectional championship since all the teams possess the talent to beat any of their potential opponents.

“At the Hoosier Hills Conference Tournament, the competition was as close as I’ve ever seen,” Kinney said. “We finished fourth, and six of those eight teams — everyone but Columbus East and Madison — will be in our sectional. Anybody can win it.”

Emily Ertel had a strong performance at the conference tournament, collecting 20 kills, 20 digs and five aces. Monica Barringer, the team’s top hitter, had seven aces. Server Lucy Hearne had 39 assists.

The Panthers defeated Jeffersonville but lost to both Columbus East and Seymour.

For the Panthers to capture the sectional title, they must fine-tune their defensive game.

“We need to work on our blocking and our back-row defense,” Kinney said. “We did well on our blocking early in the season, but we’ve struggled for the last three or four games. Blocking is all about timing. Our back row defenders need to get into position so they can see the opposing hitter and have better anticipation instead of getting stuck behind the opposing blockers and not being able to see the ball. Sometimes, our back row just follows their blockers.”

The Panthers have improved their serving game by perfecting their zone serving.

This serving method divides the court into six equal areas, and the server usually tries to serve the ball to weaker opposing passers.

“I have an assistant coach who usually watches opposing players,” Kinney said. “If she sees someone struggling, she’ll call out a zone, and we’ll try to serve into that zone. It helps the girls concentrate. In practice, we’ve been setting up chairs on the other side of the net and having zone serving competitions.”

The Panthers will begin sectional competition Saturday against Bedford North Lawrence. Because the two teams have a first-round bye, the winner gets a spot in the sectional championship game.

“We have to play better defensively against Bedford,” Kinney said. “We have to mix it up more. We were pretty excited to draw Bedford. We lost to them earlier in the season, but we’ve improved.”

Because of improved focus and leadership, the Panthers have already clinched their first winning record since the 2007 season. They could surpass the 22 wins they collected in 2007 if they perform well in the postseason.

“Our seven seniors know how each other plays, and they know what we expect of them,” Kinney said. “They’ve helped to rebuild our program. They’re good leaders, and the juniors have fallen in line behind them. This group has really worked hard, and we haven’t had any issues. We’ve grown mentally during the season. The girls are just playing so well and it’s been exciting to have a winning season.”

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