October 29th, 2011
Mercy Bows Out, Assumption Moves On
State volleyball tournament opens with first round surprise
When the 2011 KHSAA state volleyball tournament first-round pairings were released over a month ago, many anticipated a 2010 state championship rematch between Assumption High School and Mercy Academy in the quarterfinal round of this year's bracket between the 7th Region and 6th Region champs.
But half of that equation was eliminated on Friday afternoon at Bellarmine University's Knights Hall, as the opening round of the state tournament got underway.
Mercy Academy vs. Henry Clay High School
Despite Mercy's 3-0 (25-20, 25-17, 25-12) win over Henry Clay in Lexington back on Sept. 30 during the high school volleyball regular season, the No. 3 ranked Jaguars were stunned by the Lady Devils on Friday in a 2-0 (25-15, 25-22) Henry Clay win in the best-of-three first round state tournament match.
The Jags, which eliminated Henry Clay from last year's state tournament, stumbled out of the gate and found itself down 8-4 early in the first set following a slew of mishandled serves and long, out-of-bounds hits that allowed the Lady Devils to build early momentum.
Mercy battled back to cut the Henry Clay lead to 13-12, but the Lady Devils got a pair of blocks from Emily McLendon, two more long kill attemps by the Jags and a kill from Emily Stromberg that put HC up 18-12. The Jaguars would never get closer than five points the rest of the set and went on to lose by 11 points.
The defending state runner-up Mercy team cleaned things up in the second set and went up 1-0 on a service ace by Lauren Schneidtmiller, but the state's No. 6 ranked Henry Clay would not back down.
And by the time the score was tied 9-9 there had already been eight ties and plenty of back and forth action.
The Jags did manage to take an 11-9 on back-to-back kills by Schneidtmiller and Courtney Crable, but the Lady Devils answered the bell again, tied the score at 13-13 and went up 16-13 on a Nicole Jenkins kill. Erin McGrath's ace tied the score again at 17-17, but Mercy would never lead the set again.
Schneidtmiller's ninth kill of the match, combined with a Henry Clay shot into the net, cut the Lady Devil lead to 22-21, and Crable's fifth kill made the score 23-22 in favor of Henry Clay, but the last ditch effort would not be enough, as HC won the set 25-22 and the match 2-0 to advance to Saturday morning's quarterfinal round.
Mercy's Makenzie Montano had 22 assists, Paige Stewart had 10 digs and Crable had 7 digs to go with her 5 kills. As a team, the Jaguars had more kills, assists and digs than Henry Clay, but Mercy's 17 attack error count was 11 more than the Lady Devils, which were crucial points during the two sets.
Jordan Strickland led Henry Clay with 16 assists and 3 digs. Stromberg finished with a co-game high 9 kills.
Assumption High School vs. Owensboro Catholic
With Mercy Academy out, the defending state champion Assumption High School stayed in and defeated Owensboro Catholic High School 2-0 (25-8, 25-11) in its first-round match at Knights Hall.
The Rockets got at least one kill from 10 different players and made relatively easy work of the Lady Aces, as Assumption made its 25th all-time appearance in the state tournament. Friday's victory was also the program's 69th in state tournament history.
With the score tied 2-2 in the first set, AHS senior Katie Geroge served her squad to 10 straight points and the Rockets rolled ahead to a 12-2 advantage. Taylor Long's kill made it 13-3, back-to-back service aces by senior Chelsea Bowles made it 16-3 and an emphatic kill by senior Dee Zimmerman closed out the set and put Assumption ahead 1-0.
Miranda Elpers was the star of the second set, as the Assumption freshman had kills on two of the Rockets' first three points and her service ace put AHS ahead 6-1. It was 13-1 before Owensboro Catholic could blink, but the Lady Aces didn't give up and managed to steal a few points here and there.
Elpers finished the match with six aces and two kills.
Alexa Filley, who had four digs, used one of her three kills to keep Assumption ahead 19-6 and the Rockets finished the set on a 6-5 run to close out the match.
Long finished with a game-high four kills, George had 14 assists, three digs and two kills and the duo of Zimmerman and Alyssa Cavanaugh combined for six kills in the convincing win.
With the victory, the state's No. 1 ranked Assumption advances to Saturday's quarterfinal round. The Rockets will take on upset-minded Henry Clay at 11:30am at Knights Hall. The winner will advance to the semifinals at 3:30pm and face the Newport Central Catholic-Notre Dame winner.
The Rockets defeated Henry Clay 3-0 (25-11, 25-13, 25-17) on Aug. 23.