The Henry County Ladycats made history on the volleyball court this season: winning a school-record 24 matches, going undefeated in conference play to win the North Central Kentucky Conference for the first time, winning the mid-season Carroll County Invitational, winning the 8th Region All “A” Classic tournament and playing in the first-ever All “A” Classic state tournament. But they didn’t get the No. 1 goal they set at the beginning of the season: repeating as 28th District champs.
In a showdown against Shelby County in the opening round of postseason action Monday night, the Lady Rockets came away with a 2-1 win over the Ladycats, which ended the Cats season a few matches sooner than than they wanted.
The contest was primed to be a highly-anticipated first-round matchup between two schools with similar resumes — Shelby as the No. 2 seed and Henry as No. 3 with a 1-1 record against each other during the regular season. It lived up to the hype at Anderson County’s gym Monday night.
Henry won the first game 25-23, Shelby won the second game 25-18 and Shelby won the third 25-21 to advance to the distict finals Tuesday night.
“The closer the game, the harder it is on the players so that was a tough one to lose,” Henry coach Jon Kasten said afterwards. “We didn’t have our best game but we played very hard. Lack of desire was not the reason we lost — that’s for sure.”
Brittany Crawford — who gave Shelby fits during the regular season when the Ladycats defeated the Lady Rockets on their senior night — gave Henry a big lift at the net in game one, along with middle blocker Rebekah Buckley. Also, Kelley Everidge was giving near-perfect sets, Haley Anderson was producing some big outside hits, and Kelsey Mings, Jessica Booher, Karie Powell and Heidi Smith provided an extra spark.
The opening game was tied multiple times, up to 21-21 when Shelby went ahead 23-21. The Ladycats then called a timeout, and after the short break Shelby hit a serve in the net and then mishandled a serve from Powell to even up the scoreboard. Shelby hit the ball out to leave game point in Henry’s favor, and the first game was ended with a Powell-to-Everidge-to-Anderson perfect execution that put an exclamation point heading into the second game.
In game two, Shelby started out in front 5-2 before Smith came to the back line to give Henry a lift, which tied the game at 5. Shelby eventually built 13-6, 20-11 and 24-14 leads before Anderson came up to serve. Henry managed to score four late points but came up seven points short as the two squads were forced to play a third game for the third time this season.
Shelby once again started with an early advantage — this time 4-0 — before Henry rallied to get back into the game. The game was tied at 6, 10, 11, 12 and 17. Henry got within one point late, 22-21, but Shelby pulled away down the homestretch for the 25-21 victory, which prevented Henry from making its third trip to the regional tournament.
“We were just evenly matched teams,” Kasten explained. “Shelby’s coach told me after the game that if we played 10 times, we would win five of them. We’re that close.”
This time around, Shelby came away on top. Henry did have some blemishes in its season-ending match, including some unforced errors that dug some holes. It came down to communication problems, Kasten said. “It was one of those matches that we kept trying and trying. We never quit, which was a plus for us.”
Henry County finished last season with a 19-7 record and won its first-ever district title on the volleyball court. This year, they had their sights set on another district title but could not get it done Monday night. It was still a successful season, though, with school records and tournament wins.
“I consider this season a success, we accomplished a lot even though we didn’t get the one we really wanted,” Kasten said.
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