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By Tommie Kendall
With wins over Williamstown and Owen County last week, the Henry County volleyball team reached 20 wins during the regular season for the first time in the program’s history.
The Ladycats, who brought a 20-4 record into this week and played Franklin County Tuesday, now have their eyes on the All “A” Classic state tournament this weekend and the 28th District tournament the following Monday. This is the first year the All “A” is hosting a statewide volleyball championship, while the Cats hope to repeat from their district title a year ago.
With the regular season now behind them, the Ladycats are gearing down for postseason action and possibly leaving their mark as the best team since the squad was started from scratch in 1999.
“We still have some work to do,” Henry coach Jon Kasten said. “It will come down to the little things like getting our serves in, hustling, getting to balls and things like that. It’s going to be the little things that are going to make a difference. So we are really using this week to work on those things, which will make us better.”
Against Williamstown last Monday, Heidi Smith filled in for a sick Kelsey Mings at weak-side hitter and the Ladycats came away with a 2-0 win — 25-22, 25-19. It was not the Cats best performance of the season, Kasten said, but they were able to pull out the all-important victory.
“We didn’t play too well,” Kasten said. “We had a hard time passing the ball and getting it to setter Kelley Everidge. It was closer than it should have been.”
When Henry had 24 points, just one shy of ending the first game, Williamstown went on a run to close the gap to just two points before Henry could finish the contest. Then, in the second game, Henry had a hard time putting away Williamstown again but won by six points.
The Ladycats were back on the court the following day when they hosted Owen County in a match that allowed Henry to reach its milestone of 20 wins. Henry came away with easy 25-13 and 25-9 victories to end the match in two quick games. And, more importantly, it was an improvement from the night before, Kasten said.
“I thought we played decent. We did some things well that we had been working on. I thought we passed the ball extremely well, which is where it all starts. We have more weapons this year than we’ve had in the past, but to use those weapons we have to get good passes to Everidge to leave all of her setting options open.”
One of those weapons that gave Henry a big lift against Owen was Haley Anderson, who dominated from outside hitting all match long with her deadly spiking.
“She has a great swing but she seems to want to short-arm herself,” Kasten explained. “In this game, I thought she did a really good job of keeping her arm up and reaching on every hit, and it paid off for her.”
The Ladycats also got a surprise in the junior varsity game, which was played just before the varsity teams took to the court, when sophomore Taylor Clark served 21 straight points to end the first game with Henry in front 21-0. (JV games are played to 21 instead of 25.) She started the game on the backline and never gave Owen the opportunity to serve the entire game.
“That’s something I’ve never seen happen before, on the winning or losing side of any game I’ve ever been apart of,” a surprised Kasten said. “Clark served great, but it was a total team effort. Our younger girls really stepped up.”
Henry’s JV team also won the second game to give them a 4-0 sweep over Owen.
As for the varsity team, the Ladycats have won 15 of their previous 16 matches heading into this week and with a win over Franklin would have won their 21st match of the regular season. Their four losses this year have come against Anderson twice, Shelby and Grant County. Also, they won the first-ever 8th Region All “A” Classic tournament to advance to the state tournament and the Carroll County Invitational to leave them perfect in tournament play.
The All “A” will be held this Friday and Saturday in Louisville with Henry in pool play against Beechwood, Betsy Layne and the No. 2 team out of the 6th Region, which has not yet been determined. The top two teams from each pool will advance to the Gold Division, which will determine the overall state champion, while the bottom two teams from each pool will play in the Silver Division, which will be a separate tournament that guarantees each team at least five games counting pool play.
After the two-day All “A” Classic, Henry will try to defend its district crown it won last year with opening-round games Monday at Anderson County High School. No. 1 seeded Anderson will play No. 4 seeded Eminence at 6 o’clock, followed by No. 2 seeded Shelby and No. 3 seeded Henry. The top two teams will advance to the championship game the following night.
Last year, Henry went 17-6 during the regular season before defeating Eminence and Anderson in route to the district title, then lost to North Bullitt in the first round of the regional tournament. This year’s team already has more wins than last year’s record setters.
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