For the third time in as many years, the Avon volleyball team is back in the Class 4A state finals. For the second straight time, the Orioles face off against Carmel.
In last year’s final, Avon downed Carmel 3-2 in a five-set match for the ages. Carmel took the first set, and Avon won the second and third before the Greyhounds evened the match in the fourth. Avon went on to win the deciding set, 15-10.
Facing the Greyhounds again was no surprise to Avon coach Scott McQueen. Both Avon (36-3) and Carmel (37-1) have been ranked as the top two teams in the state throughout most of the season.
“We thought that would be the possibility,” McQueen said of the matchup. “We’re proud we are able to go back.”
Avon and Carmel meet again with striking similarities to last season and parallels within their own squads.
Both squads lost to teams from Kentucky, making up three of the four total losses they share.
Each features lengthy winning streaks, with Carmel on a 34-match run and Avon winners of 25 straight.
Avon returned all but three seniors from last season’s team, as did Carmel.
Carmel bested Avon, 32-30, 25-15, 25-15 in the Orioles’ fourth game of the season.
“It’s just like it was last year,” Avon junior outside hitter Beth Prince said. “(Carmel) swept us last year and we had a lot of fire and fight in us from that. I’m hoping we can have that again.”
Prince leads the team in kills (431), and Carmel has its own dynamic outside hitter in Carly Skojdt, who leads the Greyhounds with 425 kills.
Avon senior setter Rachel Griffin (996 assists) leads the Orioles with a 10.6 assist per set average. Carmel senior Carly Harbison (803 assists) averages 9.6 assists per set and fills the same role for her team.
Where the teams begin differ slightly is the postseason competition they’ve faced. Avon’s had to defeat four Top 20 opponents — No. 6 Floyd Central, No. 10 Columbus East, No. 11 Perry Meridian and No. 18 Martinsville — and Carmel’s faced one (No. 15 Carroll).
Avon’s evolution over the season — becoming a more well-rounded team — will also offer a different look than Carmel may be expecting.
“People notice our offense right away, but the reality is we’re passing really well and playing strong defense,” McQueen said. “We’re not letting points go without them earning them and that’s such a big part in volleyball. I think we can win different ways this year and that’s nice to be able to fall back on.”
Outside hitters Calle’ Weddle and Rebekah Strange, middle hitters Lindsay Thompson and Shelby Connors, along with defensive specialist Brooke Peters, make up the majority of Avon’s rotation.
Start time for Avon and Carmel is slotted for 5 p.m. Saturday at Ball State University’s Worthen Arena today, couldn’t come soon enough for some Avon players.
“I’m pretty excited and pretty pumped that we’re rematching with them,” Strange said. “We have a lot to prove to them … they really didn’t see much of us right now, but when we play them, we’re gonna bring it.”