October 8th, 2020

Henry Clay topples Valkyries in 5 set battle

Block_eric thorne

Eric Thorne

Staff Writer

Henry Clay topples Valkyries in 5 set battle
Alexandria Downs goes up for a kill in Sacred Heart's battle with Henry Clay. (photo by Eric Thorne)

Seizing the momentum and finishing are two key volleyball traits that Lexington Henry Clay used to knock off host Sacred Heart for the first time in school history on Thursday in a five-set thriller 25-15, 15-25, 26-24, 20-25 and 15-8.

It was a matchup of two of Kentucky top-five teams in the Kentucky Volleyball Coaches Association poll with the surging No. 5 ranked Blue Devils catching No. 3 Sacred Heart coming off a Covid-19 quarantine.

“Anytime you take a break and can’t practice you come back and try to recreate what you were doing and to play a tough match like this its challenging  - but that’s this season,” Sacred Heart coach Brett Versen said. “We have the talent to make a postseason run like a lot of teams, but we have to clean up some things to do that.”

Blue Devil coach Dale Grupe relished what could be one of the most important games for his team.

“We took Assumption to five sets a few weeks back and we learned a lot from that match, and we learned a lot knowing we need to finish,” Grupe said. “Any of these top five teams can take it to each other so this is fun.

“This is huge because we are the outside looking in team whose been competitive but can’t get over the hump. The last three or four years we haven’t had a signature win, but this tonight was a signature win.”

Henry Clay (14-3) has won six straight matches while Sacred Heart (7-5) had not played since a 3-0 loss to Mercy on September 28.

The rust showed early for the Valkyries in set one as the Blue Devils pulled away from an 8-7 lead and never trailed the rest of the set as Lillie Feldhaus and Abby Shadwick delivered crushing kills.

Sacred Heart came to life in the second set that would feature eight ties and four lead changes the last at 12-11 with Tess Schrenger asserting herself at the net and forcing several Blue Devil errors. Down the stretch the tenacious Valkyrie attack paid off as senior Carly Furlong had a kill and Abigail Powell with two others that secured the set.

Set three saw Sacred Heart jump out to a 5-2 lead, but Henry Clay reeled off an 8-1 run behind Emma Shadwick’s three kills.

Furlong, a Conneticut commit, began to rally her team back and Kayla Bryant stepped on the floor and delivered four straight aces to tie the set at 12-12. Sacred Heart would lead until three kills by Emma Shadwick and Paige Wagers’ kill tied it again at 22-22.

Schrenger delivered three kills to stave off the Blue Devil handing her team the set.

“At times when you get a good set you must put the ball away and we did do that, but we need some more consistency,” Schrenger said. “We’ll go get points and kills, but we tend to lose the momentum points the ones that get you going, and we need to work a little more on those.”

Back came the Blue Devils behind the Shadwick twin sisters and Wagers who would never let their team relinquish the lead in the fourth set. The closest Sacred Heart would come was an 11-11 tie when Bryant again served up consecutive aces for the Valkyries.

Trying to stay close in the set seam to wear down the Valkyries heading to the decisive set, but they would not wilt.

“That’s a talented team that we played with and competed with but we just have to find a way to finish which has been a little bit of an issue this year finishing off sets,” Versen said. “Volleyball is all momentum and when you get it you have to keep it. When you lose it, you have to find a way to get it back, but we just seemed to let them off the hook a few too many times.”

There were three lead changes including the final one for Sacred Heart when Schrenger powered a slam past Henry Clay blockers. But Wagers, a Mercer commit, with a block and kill ignited her squad and Emma Shadwick’s final kill finished off the match.

Emma Shadwick, who has committed to Yale, had 10 kills while sister Abby who is headed to Colgate, added 14. Feldhaus led her team with 18 kills and Wagers (Mercer) added eight.

Schrenger, who had 17 kills and 21 digs, took the loss in stride feeling that teams learn more sometimes from a loss.

“You win as a team and lose as a team and tonight they were just the better one in the end,” Schrenger said. “In the last set they came out to play and we weren’t as ready and focused and think we got a little tired but that’s when you have to push through.”



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