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JEFFERSONVILLE — With five of the eight volleyball teams in Saturday’s Hoosier Hills Conference Tournament being ranked, no first-round match was going to be easy.
One could argue that Class 4A No. 10 Columbus East got the toughest draw: seventh-ranked Floyd Central.
Olympians coach Faith Wilder-Newland thought her team was competitive in the first set, but they lost 25-20. Then in the second set, East had a few more errors, and the result was a 25-14 setback.
“I thought that we were right there siding out with them,” Wilder-Newland said. “I was very pleased with how we did early on, and then we gave up a couple points in a row just making serve-receive errors or defensive errors, which is disappointing. Then in the second set, I thought we got a little discombobulated and just didn’t play our best.”
Wilder-Newland accepted part of the blame for the second-set loss because she accidentally transposed numbers on her lineup card.
“We made a lot more serve-reception errors and defensive errors in the second set,” she said. “I thought even though players weren’t exactly where they had been before, it shouldn’t have affected how we were playing on defense.”
From there, the Olympians knew the best they could do was place fifth, and they did that after defeating Jeffersonville 25-14, 25-18 and 3A No. 15 Madison 25-17, 25-14 in the consolation bracket.
“I wanted to see a good attitude, keep working hard, keep moving on defense instead of falling down, to stay on our feet and pursue better,” Wilder-Newland said. “Offensively, I thought we played a lot better the next two matches. Of course, we didn’t have a huge block in front of us, which made it easier to hit well.”
Leaders on the day were Carly Robertson with 22 kills, Faith Myers with 68 assists, Alexa Husmann-Miller with 24 digs and Caitlyn Williams with six aces.
“I think Katie Mack gave us a big lift on the right, has really been improving steadily. She’s gotten healthy and steadily improved for us hitting-wise,” Wilder-Newland said. “I feel like our middles are improving also in blocking and offense. But big is Carly Robertson getting a lot of good kills for us and stabilizing us. We’re really working on stabilizing our defense and our serve-receive, and Alexa is a big part of that.”
Wilder-Newland has had to deal with losing players to injuries, and that has been tough.
“We’ve gone a whole 28 years now for me without hardly having any major injuries, so I don’t know if it was just our time or if we were due or what,” she said. “Everybody has them, so we just have to keep playing. I really think the young kids have made a lot of progress. Two freshmen are playing regularly, and a lot of sophomores.”
As for other area teams, perhaps the most disappointed on the day was 4A No. 6 Seymour.
The Owls entered the tournament as one of the favorites, but they had to fight to take the lead a couple of times in defeating Madison 25-13, 25-8 in the opener and 4A No. 17 Bedford North Lawrence 25-16, 25-16 to reach the championship against Floyd Central.
There, they weren’t in sync at all and lost 25-19, 25-20.
“These are good teams, but we’ve played them before, and that should have been a confidence-builder for us,” Seymour coach Angie Lucas said. “Instead, we just acted like we didn’t want to be here today. It’s what it looked like to me, and I was very disappointed as a coach to have a team show up and have that kind of a performance.”
Jennings County began with a 25-23, 25-18 win over host Jeffersonville before falling to Floyd Central 25-14, 25-23. In the second set of the latter match, Jennings had leads of 19-16 and 21-18 before Floyd rallied to even the score at 22 and 23 and scored the final two points on Panther errors.
The Panthers then suffered a 25-14, 25-16 loss to BNL to finish fourth in the HHC.
Emily Ertel pounded 25 kills, Kyleigh Nelson recorded 36 assists, Kyla Ortleib had eight blocks and Dani Kirchner added 23 digs for the Panthers. Nelson, Ortleib and Miranda Younts all served two aces.
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