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The Eminence Lady Warriors played well in spurts against their visiting cross-county rival last Wednesday night, but Henry County came away with 25-8 and 25-15 wins to end the best-of-three series and sweep the Warriors during the regular season.
The Ladycats, who improved their overall record to 15-5 entering this week, were never seriously challenged in the first game but faced a much-determined Eminence squad in game two. Henry took the lead for good after breaking open a 9-9 tie. The second game was full of long volleys and hard hits in an intense atmosphere.
The Lady Warriors dropped to 3-16 with the loss and entered this week at 3-17. They have not defeated Henry since September 2005.
“I think we could have done a better job overall but Henry County has a very, very strong team this year,” EHS first-year head coach Stephanie Meadows said of her team’s performance. “It seemed like we played really well in spurts. It comes back to the whole consistency issue we have with this team. At times, it seems like our players still aren’t sure what they’re supposed to do.”
While Henry’s head coach, Jon Kasten, was pleased with his team’s play in game one when the Ladycats never trailed, he was a little frustrated with how they started game two. Trailing 5-0, the Cats closed the gap and eventually went ahead. They ended up winning by 10 points to end the game and match.
“The first time we played Eminence, they had some girls go on big serving runs against us, so that was one of the things we were working on this time — not letting them go on any runs,” said Kasten, who missed the first match against Eminence a few weeks ago due to health issues. “I thought in the first game we were able to do that. They scored eight points and had just seven girls serve. In that second game, though, we fell back a little and had to work at it. Eminence definitely started to play much better.”
After an easy win, Henry switched sides to play next to the rowdy Eminence crowd in game two, which could have led to its early woes. The Ladycats were ahead 14-12 when they went on a 5-0 run to break open the contest. Henry also defeated Eminence on Sept. 14, 25-14 and 25-15.
This time around, Henry started the first game with a quick kill from Brittany Crawford on a Kelley Everidge set to the middle of the net. The game was tied at 1 and 2 before the Ladycats started to pull away. Crawford’s second kill sparked a 4-0 run that was slowed down when Meadows signaled for a timeout with Henry ahead 6-2. The Cats extended that run to 8-0 and held a 10-3 lead when a net serve gave the ball back to Eminence. Henry won 25-8.
The roles were reversed in game two when Eminence came out on fire to grab an early 5-0 advantage. Andrea Perez gave Henry fits at serving with all five being mishandled by the Henry players.
The contest was eventually tied, 7-7, and tied again at 8 and 9 before Henry went ahead for good on a perfect Everidge-to-Jessica Booher hit. Perez served a few more points for Eminence but the Ladycats came away with the 10-point win. Tyler Sadler, who took the place of Haley Anderson while she is out sick, got the match’s final point with a hard hit that reflected off an Eminence player’s hands.
Heading into the county showdown, Henry won the Carroll County Invitational the Saturday before and defeated both Williamstown (25-14, 25-19) and Carroll County (25-9, 25-17) on Monday and Tuesday to win the North Central Kentucky Conference championship. It points the Ladycats in the right direction with the postseason just around the corner.
“I thought we showed improvement in both games as far as maturity goes,” said Kasten, whose team also won the conference title last year. “Instead of playing at our level of competition, we rose up and played our own games. It’s what we need to do.”
The one area Kasten has been wanting his squad to improve in is serving, which the players did last week during the three wins. Booher, in particular, has been hitting all her spots, Kasten said.
“I think, overall, our serving was very good last week, across the whole team” Kasten said. “It’s nice that we were able to call spots on the court and our girls were able to hit them. That’s going to be our advantage when we go up against teams like Anderson County and Shelby County. It’s something we’re getting better at.”
Meanwhile, Eminence played four consecutive matches last week. The Lady Warriors lost to Carroll on Monday, defeated Evangel Christian on Tuesday, lost to Henry on Wednesday and lost to Gallatin County on Thursday. The Evangel win gave them three victories this season, the most since 2005.
The one match Meadows was most pleased with, though, was against Gallatin when her team lost the first game, 25-16, won the second, 25-17, and lost the third, 25-15, in what Meadows calls her team’s best play this year.
“We did very, very well,” Meadows said. “We did well at passing, setting and hitting. We nailed it, did exactly what we needed to do. With all the games last week, our girls went out there on Thursday with the attitude that they weren’t going to give up. Best game all year.”
Meadows wanted to point out the play from Perez, Kara Capps, Nicki Gamble, Alexis Lentini, PJ Thomason, Savannah Meadows, Keelie Dyson and Caila Plemmons. It was a team effort.
“We played a lot of volleyball but our players hung in there and never gave up,” Meadows said. “That’s all you can ask for out of them.”
High school teams across Kentucky finish their regular seasons this week and then start postseason with various district tournaments next week. The 28th District starts Monday night at Eminence High School. No. 1 seeded Shelby plays No. 4 seeded Eminence at 6 p.m., followed by No. 2 seeded Anderson and No. 3 seeded Henry at 7 p.m.
The championship game is Tuesday at 6 p.m. with the top two teams automatically advancing to the 8th Region tournament the following week.
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