AVON — Volleyball matches like Saturday’s between defending Indiana state champion Avon and defending Kentucky state champion Assumption don’t occur all that often. When they do, the competition makes for exciting viewing and the Orioles and Rockets definitely didn’t disappoint.
Avon took an energy-filled first set 27-25, but Assumption reeled off three straight set wins (25-20, 25-20 and 25-15) to seal the match, 3-1.
“Both teams are pretty talented and it gives us an opportunity to see some things we haven’t seen,” Avon coach Scott McQueen said. “Everything we got, we earned.”
Avon has built its program over the past few years, culminating with a state-runner-up finish in 2011 and state championship in 2012.
Assumption, ranked No. 1 in the nation, has won the last three consecutive Kentucky state championships and an almost unheard of 17 of the last 21 titles. The Rockets travel to play the best competition they can find and it’s a necessity Assumption coach Ron Kordes believes sharpens his squad.
“You only get better playing good competition and it’s the only way to improve,” Kordes said. “You have to play the best competition you can find, plus it’s fun.”
Avon and Assumption came out and thrilled a large crowd with a first set that included 14 ties and six lead changes. Tied at 24, Assumption went up 25-24 but Avon rallied for the 27-25 win.
“The energy was so great in the first set and we had trouble maintaining that but some of that is because Assumption is very good,” McQueen said.
Kordes said he knew the Rockets would have trouble with Avon’s size, was impressed with how well the Orioles attacked the net and said “Avon is so big and so powerful and we were a little overwhelmed in the first game with their power.”
Between the first and second sets, Kordes adjusted his game plan and Assumption built some momentum of its own.
Assumption built a 5-0 lead and never looked back in the second set as Avon never led or tied the entire set. There were moments Avon would start to close the gap, but a costly mental error would stop Orioles’ runs three different times.
“We had too many stretches go in the wrong direction there,” McQueen said. “That’s tough to do against a team like that.”
Avon shook off the second set and built a 4-1 lead to begin the third, but Assumption went on a 5-0 run to take a 6-4 lead. Avon closed to within a point at 12-13, but Assumption again went on a 5-0 run. The Rockets were at match point with a 24-17 lead and despite a 3-0 run by the Orioles, Assumption took a 2-1 match advantage.
The two teams were tied at 1-1, 2-2 and 3-3 in the fourth set, but Assumption broke out ahead of Avon again and didn’t let up, taking a 10-point margin of victory as the Rockets closed out the Orioles.
Prince led Avon with 17 kills and teammate Calle Weddle tallied 11. Rebekah Strange contributed 25 digs and Brooke Peters recorded 11. Rachel Griffin led the team in assists and Shelby Connors tallied five blocks.