HC wins first-ever 8th Region All 'A' volleyball tourney

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By Tommie Kendall

Sports editor

With the introduction of volleyball into the All “A” Classic over the weekend, it was a good year for the Henry County Ladycats to make the jump back into the All “A” since their departure in 1999.

In the inaugural 8th Region All “A” Classic Volleyball Tournament Saturday at Walton-Verona High School, the Ladycats knocked off Owen County, Walton-Verona and Carroll County on their way to the championship, which qualified them for the state tournament Oct. 10-11. Kelsey Mings was named the Regional Tournament Most Valuable Player, teammates Kelley Everige, Haley Anderson and Jessica Booher were also named to the All-Region Team, and Henry was able to win the regional tournament on its first try and will play in the first-ever state tournament next month.

“I don’t think it’s as big as a district win for us, but we thought we had a chance to win it and it was nice to go up there and do it,” said Henry coach Jon Kasten, who led the Ladycats to their first district crown last fall and hopes to do the same this year. “It’s good for our first year back in the All ‘A’ and for the first year that they’ve had a volleyball tournament. I’m happy to represent our school and represent the region.”

After a sluggish start in their first match against Owen County, the Ladycats played one of their best matches of the season against Walton-Verona in the semifinals. Henry defeated both Owen (25-14, 25-14) and Walton-Verona (25-18, 25-19) in two games, but the second match was much better for the Cats, Kasten said.

“Honestly, I did not think we played well in that match against Owen. We kind of stood around and didn’t attack the ball,” he said. “Then, against Walton-Verona, we played much better. I don’t think it is the best we are capable of playing, but it was definitely one of the better ones we’ve played so far. It was simple for us — our girls talked, stayed positive and were aggressive.”

Henry was ahead 24-12 before Walton-Verona went on a 6-0 run to make the first game appear closer than it actually was. In game two, Henry took early command of the scoreboard and cruised in for the easy victory to advance to the finals.

Mings gave Henry a big lift with accurate serving, a few big hits and providing a vocal leader on the court. Booher and Anderson also had some solid hits from the outside, while Everidge was providing near-perfect sets all match.

In the championship match, Henry was able to squeeze out 25-19 and 27-25 wins over Carroll County to claim the title. The Ladycats finished the first game strong and held on in game two to end the best-of-three series.

“I didn’t think we played as well as we did against Walton-Verona, but much better than we did against Owen County earlier in the day,” Kasten said.

In the second game, Carroll started out ahead, Henry evened up the score and went in front, and Carroll came back to grab advantage again in the see-saw matchup. Carroll was in position to force a third game with two game points — 24-23 and 25-24 — but Henry was able to pull out the win with a final burst.

At 25-24, Kasten called a timeout, the Ladycats came out of the huddle to break serve and tie the game, and Karie Powell went to the backline to serve. Mings scored the go-ahead point off a big hit from the outside, while the championship-deciding point came after a long volley, including two strong hits from Rebecca Buckley and accumulating with a Carroll player touching the net on a tight ball.

The three wins in one day — at noon, 1 p.m and 3 p.m. — advanced Henry to a statewide volleyball tournament for the first time in school history. The Ladcyats will have their eye on the school’s first All “A” state title when the tournament rolls around next month.

“If we played it this week, I’m not sure how we would do,” Kasten said. “But by the time it gets here, I think our team will be one of the better ones at that tournament. The girls have been working really hard lately with a new work ethic. I do believe by the time that rolls around, we might be one of the best teams there.”

The tournament win came four days after Henry took a 2-1 loss to district opponent Anderson County. Anderson won the first game 25-23, Henry won the second 26-24 and Anderson won the third 25-20. The loss was just the wake-up call the Cats needed, which might have led to the tournament win Saturday.

“Basically, how we practiced from July 15 until that Anderson match is dead,” Kasten said. “Now, we have new drills and a new way of doing things in practice. We will continue this high-intensity training.

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