October 5th, 2011
Rockets Undefeated On Ron Kordes Court
George's clutch play leads Assumption to win over Mercy
Down two sets to one and behind 23-21 in a potentially match-clinching fourth set to Mercy Academy, the Assumption High School volleyball team was in danger of losing its first ever game on the newly-named Ron Kordes Court on Tuesday night.
And with the Rockets not having much success getting points on kill attempts from its primary hitters up front, Kordes - the AHS head coach and namesake of the dedicated volleyball floor - turned to his squad's setter to create some instant and much-needed offense.
But this wasn't just any ordinary setter. This was Assumption senior and fearless captain Katie George.
With her ninth kill of the match coming during the fourth set, George brought the Rockets within 23-22 of the Jaguars, proceeded to serve out the remainder of the set and ultimately led the Rockets to a 3-2 (18-25, 25-23, 24-26, 25-23, 15-10) Senior Night victory over a tough Jags team.
She even capped the entire night with a match-clinching ace to close things out.
"She's not one of our primary swingers out there, but she got it done," said Kordes. "When we couldn’t get a ball down, she got two or three down for us. That's just her makeup. She's a competitor."
For George, who plans to play for Kordes' daughter - Anne - and the hometown University of Louisville team next year, Tuesday was just another opportunity for the senior to take the reins.
"I feel like I can help in any way possible out there," said George. "I love being able to take responsibility out there as captain, because that's my job."
In a match that went the distance and then some, the Rockets won its 33rd match of the season and second straight of the year over Mercy - the team Assumption played in last season's state championship match.
"It took about two years off my life," said Kordes. "I guess it means that we played very sporadically and still pulled out a win. That's about all the good I can find out of it. I thought Mercy's defense was incredible. We couldn't get a ball down and frustrated the heck out of our hitters."
Mercy, which was paced by sophomore Courtney Crable's game-high 28 kills, took control early on Tuesday and seized the first set after going on a 6-0 run with the score tied 11-11, which was capped by a kill from senior Amanda Crask. The Rockets would cut its deficit to 18-15, but that would be as close as things would get during the Jags' 25-18 opening set win.
The two teams exchanged leads and ties in the second set until Assumpiton freshman Miranda Elpers' kill put the exclamation point on a 4-0 run that gave the Rockets a 19-15 lead. Elpers proceeded to pull out another kill for a 20-16 Assumption lead and her service ace on the very next point gave Kordes and Co. breathing room and a 21-16 lead.
Mercy contined to battle and cut the AHS lead to 23-22, but the Rockets hung on and evened the best-of-five match 1-1 on a kill by junior Taylor Paulson.
With the match tied at 1-1, Assumption jumped out to a 9-3 lead in the third set and took the early six-point lead on a block by sophomore Lauren Tutwiler. But the Jaguars persevered, clawed its way back and eventually tied the score 17-17 on a kill from senior Lauren Schneidtmiller and a service ace from fellow senior Erin McGrath.
A kill by George seemed to put Assumption in control with a 23-22 advantage, but back-to-back kills by Crable put the Jags ahead 24-23.
Paulson managed to tie the third set score at 24-all on a slam that came off a net deflection, but two consecutive hits out of bounds by the Rockets - one on a serve and one on an attempted return - gave Mercy the third set 26-24 and an overall 2-1 lead in the match.
Similar to the third set, Assumption flew out of the gate in set No. 4 and quickly grabbed a 4-0 lead behind two kills and a block by Paulson. But Mercy would fight back once again, went on to tie the set at 6-6 and took its first lead of the set when the Jags moved ahead 17-16 on an Assumption block out-of-bounds.
A kill by sophomore Ashley Witt put Mercy up 22-20 and another one from Schneidtmiller put them ahead 23-21 and just two points away from spoiling Assumption's Senior Night, the court dedication ceremony for Ron Kordes and getting revenge on a Rockets team that has had Mercy's number the last few times out.
As mentioned before, however, that's when George sprung into action and took control of the contest.
"In that fourth game, what are you going to do? Are you going to step up, or are you going to fall back?," asked a hypothetical George. "Our only option is to step up if we're going to accomplish what we want to this year."
With the match tied 2-2 following George's monumental effort, Assumption pounced on a mentally defeated Mercy team and raced to a 6-2 lead in a fifth and decisve set that was being played first to 15 points. The Rockets earned the four-point cushion when senior libero Chelsea Bowles' serve glanced the net, hung like a tightrope walker at a circus, and fell slowly to the ground.
Just as they had during the previous four sets, Mercy found one last gear and managed to tie the score at 7-7 when an Assumpiton serve went long.
But kills from Alexa Filley and senior Dallas Zimmerman launched Assumption back to a 10-7 lead and led to an eventual 15-10 fifth-set win and 3-2 match victory on an ace by George that hit just before the court's back line.
"I think we have a lot of pressure on ourselves and tonight it really showed," said George, whose team was fresh off a win at the national Asics Challenge tournament in Chicago. "We don't play well tight and that's obvious from what we did tonight. The thing is, we go to these out-of-town tournaments and we're playing some of the best teams in the nation, and it's not an emotional game. We're almost detached. But you come home and play a Mercy or Sacred Heart, and it is an emotional game, so you have to worry about it."
Prior to the actual match, which featured two of the top teams and programs in the country, the Rockets honored its five seniors (George, Bowles, Zimmerman, Phoeniz Folwer and Taylor Long) and then announced that the school was dedicating the gymnasium floor to Kordes - the man Assumption Athletic Director called "the face of the program."
Kordes, who has been at the helm of the AHS program for 23 years, has captured 15 state titles and produced some of the most successful teams and players in Kentucky volleyball history.
"What an honor," said Kordes of the dedication. "I never expected anything like that, but I thank everybody involved. It's something I'll always remember obviously."
But more important to the legendary coach after Tuesday's win was recognizing his group of departing seniors and the upcoming postseason, which will begin when Assumption kicks off 26th District Tournament action next Monday against Waggener.
"I tell you what: this team probably has much chemistry as we've had in a long time," said Kordes. "Things have been so smooth (this season) and there's been no drama or whatever, and I attribute that to those five (seniors). Your seniors are either going to cause it or enable it, and they've been great. They've shown great leadership. I can't say any more about them."
"We've had a great season, but I told (the girls), 'Crunch time's coming right now, because this is when all the pressure starts'," he continued. "After next week, you lose one and you're out. We'll go into (the postseason) as the favorite and you've got to be able to withstand the pressure of it. I wasn't so sure about it tonight, but they got up and pulled that thing out somehow."
George, who had 10 kills in Tuesday's win, said the emotional night was "nerve racking," but that she is pleased with how her and the fellow seniors have handled things in 2011.
"From the beginning of the season, people said that six seniors left and that Assumption's going to have a down year," said George. "But if you look at our record, we've only had an up year, and I think that's due and credited to the seniors because we stayed relax, we've gone out and just played hard, taken the underclassmen under our wings and really bonded with them, and I think being a team is what gets you through matches like that (against Mercy)."
Assumption (33-1) will play once more during the regular season, as the Rockets will take its 17-match winning streak to 9th Region's Notre Dame Academy in northern Kentucky on Thursday. For Mercy, the Jaguars have three games scheduled before starting postseason play, beginning with a match at Sacred Heart Academy on Thursday and a pair of matches (vs. Mount Notre Dame - Ohio and at Greenwood) on Saturday.
The Jags (21-11) open its playoff action on Monday against Central in the semifinals of the 21st District Tournament.
For full video highlights from Tuesday's match, visit: http://catholicsportsnet.com/louisville/view_csn_video/226