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The host Eminence Lady Warriors, donning their new bright-blue uniforms, came out ready to roll against visiting Henry County last Thursday, scoring the first point of the county showdown and holding a few advantages in the early portion of the match.
But the Ladycats, who had already defeated Eminence 2-0 (25-5, 25-13) earlier in the season, eventually went in front and used a couple of long rallies to stretch their lead to 25-13. Then, in the second game, the Cats never trailed as they cruised in for the 25-6 unchallenged victory, which gave them the 2-0 win and a sweep to the regular-season matches between the two high school separated by just four miles. Henry improved to 18-4 on the season, while the Lady Warriors dropped to 1-12.
"The Eminence players always get up for this game," Henry coach Jon Kasten said the following day. "They came out, thought they could win it and gave everything they had. I thought they had some good serves in the beginning, which we had trouble with. Their lineup puts their best three servers in the first three positions. We just had a hard time passing the ball at first."
The Lady Warriors, with assistant coach Tanya Mitchell filling in for head coach Kristen Lively, had strong serving to give them some early leads, including their largest at 7-4. Before the game, they decided to mix things up- Savannah Meadows and Kara Capps were moved to hitters, Sarah Floyd and Chelsea Wright were moved to setters and Chelsea Mathis and Nikki Gamble alternated positions. The new rotation worked in the first game, Mitchell said, but not in the second.
"Our girls have worked hard this year and have made great improvement. We're very impressed with the progress from the beginning of the season to date. Unfortunately they haven't been able to pull many wins on the court, so we thought wed change things up a bit and try some girls in different roles," Mitchell said. "It seemed to work well in the first game. This may be something we want to consider again."
After Eminence built its early lead in game one, the serving of Henry's Haley Anderson closed the gap, and the Ladycats eventually went in front 9-7. A few points later, after the contest was tied, Anderson's kill from a Kelley Everidge set put Henry back in front, 10-9. The Ladycats never trailed for the rest of the match.
Following a spike from Kelsey Mings, Jessica Booher served nine straight points to put the Cats ahead 23-11. Rebekah Buckleys block then gave back the ball back to Henry, and Mings finished the first game with a serve Eminence could not get a hand on.
In the second game, Henry went on some long runs to put the game out of reach early on. Booher served five straight points and Mings served four straight to put Henry ahead 12-2. Also, Buckley and Brittany Crawford dominated the middle of the net, while Eminence had no answer for the outside hitting of Anderson, thanks to the setting of Everidge and the passing from the rest of the Cats.
"In that second game, I thought we played much better," Kasten said. "I still didn't think we moved as well as we needed. Not moving our feet was the biggest issue I wasn't pleased with."
Eminence's top player during the match was Andrea Perez, Mitchell said. But Eminence still needs to work together as a team, which was evident in Henry's big runs during the second game.
"Perez did another great job. She has been a great team player, skilled, positive and encouraging, and has shown real leadership," Mitchell said. "We need to work on playing as a team and setting it up for three hits. They do great in practice but it doesn't always carry over into games."
With the loss, Eminence is still looking for its second win of the season since defeating Evangel Christian Aug. 28. Meanwhile, the Ladycats have won 14 of their previous 15 games and are just two wins shy of reaching No. 20. Their four losses have come to Anderson County twice, Shelby County and Grant County in the Carroll County Invitational. With their recent success, including wins at the first-ever 8th Region All "A" Classic tournament and the Carroll County Invitational, the Cats seem to be on an upswing.
"We're playing well, but I dont think we've peaked yet," Kasten warned. "That's a good thing. Hopefully, we will start playing our best volleyball when we really need to."
Henry 2, Shelby 1: With the Carroll County Invitational just two days earlier- when the Ladycats went 5-1 in one day to win the title- Jon Kasten was worried with how his team would respond playing district opponent Shelby County last Monday night.
But Henry County played just the way he was hoping with a 2-1 win on the road against a team of Shelby's caliber, who is also the same team Henry will play in the opening round of the district tournament later this month. Shelby won the first game, 25-14, before Henry won the final two, 25-21 in each, to win the best-of-three series. It was the first non-Eminence district win for the Ladycats this season, to go along with a loss to Shelby earlier in the year and two losses to Anderson County.
"I thought we played well against Shelby, especially considering we just played in the tournament a few days before," Kasten said. "I was worried the girls might be tired, but I didn't feel like it had that much of an effect on them."
After three long volleys in which both teams executed near perfect during game one, the Ladycats found themselves trailing 3-0. From that point forward, they played catch up but could never close the gap enough with the Lady Rockets winning by 11 points.
Henry turned the tables in the second game to lead most of the way and come away with a four-point win, which forced a match-deciding third game. Then, in the third game, Shelby started out strong to take a 20-13 lead before the Cats stormed back. Henry used a 10-0 run to go ahead, and held on for another four-point victory. When the Lady Rockets were able to get the ball back over the net midway through Henrys long serving run, Rebekah Buckley was there for a big block to give the Cats just the spark they needed.
Another player that gave Henry a big lift, Kasten said, was Brittany Crawford. The junior led the squad in kills and had big blocks at the net all match long.
"She played like a girl possessed," Kasten said. "Every time she came in, she gave us a lot of energy. It was a good injection of energy that we needed."
Another key player for the Cats- as she has been all season- was setter Kelley Everidge. The junior gave her teammates sets right on target.
"She was unbelievable the entire game," Kasten said. "She was very smart in how she used her hitters. She's been doing it all year, and without her we won't get those big hits."
Henry 2, Gallatin 0: After playing six games en route to the Carroll County Invitational championship Saturday, and defeating a tough Shelby County squad Monday, the Ladycats started to show fatigue in their match against Gallatin County last Tuesday night. But they still managed to come away with a 2-0 win to win 13 of their previous 14 games heading into the Eminence showdown.
"That's when our tiredness showed," Henry coach Jon Kasten said after the Gallatin win. "We looked tired on the court and had a hard time passing the ball. We were sluggish."
The first game was tied at 11 when Jessica Booher went to the back line to give the Cats a big lift serving, which put them comfortably ahead. Henry won the game 25-13. Then, the second game was no question as the Cats came away with a 25-6 win.
Anderson 2, Eminence 0: The Eminence Lady Warriors hosted a tough Anderson County squad last Tuesday at Warrior Gym, where they took a quick 2-0 loss. Anderson won both games at 25-8 to end the best-of-three series.
With the loss, Eminence secured the fourth and final seed in the district tournament later this month, while Anderson secured the top spot. The two teams, who have played twice this season with Anderson also winning the first match in two games (25-15, 25-12), will meet in the opening round, and will face the winner of Shelby County and Henry County for the title. The top two teams will automatically advance to the 8th Region Tournament.
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