Lady Tigers Claim first Volleyball Regional Crown

Lady Tigers Claim first Volleyball Regional Crown
Posted on 10/25/2017
This is the image for the news article titled Lady Tigers Claim first Volleyball Regional CrownThere were more story lines Saturday at the Taylor Regional than many could count, but when you set all of those aside there is one thing we know… ALEXANDRIA HAS CLAIMED ITS FIRST EVER REGIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP IN VOLLEYBALL! But let's go back and take a look at a few of the others… Earlier on Saturday, Alexandria faced off against its bitter rival Madison-Grant in Regional Semi-Final action. Both teams claimed their own sectionals on their own courts a week earlier, and now it was time to meet on a neutral court. Alexandria came out literally on fire serving notice to the Rochester Zebras (who defeated Carroll 3-0 in the days first match) that they were the team to beat in this Regional. The Lady Tigers topped Madison-Grant 25-11, 25-14 before getting a little carried away and faltering in game three. The Argylls had their best showing in that set taking it 19-25 before the Tigers got back to business ending the match in four sets taking the last one 25-15. The match was between rival schools, as well as rival coaches, and will be the last time Alexandria's Jeff Harmon faces off against MadisonGrant's Bob Holloway on a volleyball court as Harmon has announced this is his final season. The two are friends off the court, but on it is a different story. "To be honest, with getting this far, if we had lost to Madison-Grant today," said Alexandria Head Coach Jeff Harmon. "We have our CIC Conference meeting on Monday and if we would have lost that game I don't think I would have been able to go and sit next to Bob. Our team has gone through so much this season and the girls deserve this. If you look at it, since the summer we have lost three starters from our lineup and we have constantly had to make changes and adjustments." The lost players Harmon was referring to were Riley Hiser and Mackenzie Andrew who were both lost during the summer to knee injuries, and then starting right side hitter Kaitlyn Bair who went out just three weeks ago with a broken wrist. The win over the Argylls sent the Tigers to the finals, which put No. 2 Alexandria against No. 4 Rochester. The Tigers jumped up early and led throughout the first set as they got the early win 25-17. Alexandria jumped on top in the second set as well, but the Zebras would not go away quietly as they kept chipping away until the topped the Tigers 22-25. One key moment in game two came about halfway through when Blaine Kelly delivered a kill from the outside. That hit put Kelly over 1,000 career kills for Alexandria, and also made her the first player in school history to have 1,000 kills in volleyball and to also be a 1,000 point scorer in basketball, a feat she completed last season as a junior. With the match all knotted up at 1-1, Alexandria knew they were in for a fight and it was time to buckle down. The teams traded the lead back and forth during the third game and it was Alexandria finally putting it away 25-23 as senior Megan Miller began to survey the floor, She seemed to be able to put the kill down when needed, but if blockers were present she would find the open space and roll shot the ball where needed. It is worth noting that Alexandria had leads of 13-6 and 18-13 during the game. The Zebras managed to finally tie the score 23-23 before Alexandria put it away. Rochester came out ready in the fourth and showed why they were No. 4. They were spot on with their defense digging up almost ever kill attempt the Tigers tried to put down, and their serve receive was sharp as they did not allow Alexandria to tally the aces they have become accustomed to with their aggressive serving. Rochester led 23-17 when Alexandria called timeout and Harmon told his team that they really needed to buckle down and get ready. "We knew the game wasn't over with a loss," Harmon explained. "That would have sent us to a game five, but we wanted the girls to go back out with fight. When you get hit like that you have to fight back and that is what the girls did." The Tigers got a side-out on the next play and that led to Rochester calling timeout as they were trying to hold the lead to send the match to a deciding fifth game. The timeout was also well timed as it allowed the pressure to build on Alexandria's next server… freshman Lauren Dungan. But you would have never known she was a freshman as she delivered some solid serves including one of the few aces given up by Rochester. The Zebras would take their final timeout at 23-23, but the momentum had already shifted, the large Alexandria crowd was loud, and the celebration was already starting. Dungan continued to serve tough, and again it was Miller and Kelly who went up and delivered the game's final kills to give Alexandria their first Regional Championship in school history. "Give some credit to Rochester," said Harmon. "They are a very good team and they came out and played hard. I thought that they were much better this evening against us then what I saw out of them earlier in the day. Tonight they were very good defensively digging things up, and we are an aggressive serving team and they did a nice job passing the ball up all night." "This is a great feeling," Miller said immediately following the match. "We have worked hard as a team all season, and tonight we showed it." In regards to her ability to see the floor, Miller was complimentary of her opponents. "They (Rochester) were very good defensively," she explained. "They made adjustments so we had to make some of our own." The loss by the Zebras was actually the first time they had lost this season in a match that would be decided by the best-of-five games. Their only losses had been in tournament settings where games were decided in three sets. "We have had so many great teams through the years," Harmon said, "and to finally win the regional is something all of them can be proud of." "This means so much not only to the girls, but to our program," said Assistant Coach Deanna Miller. "We have always had teams in the top 10, but we were always in sectionals that had teams that were No. 1 or No. 2, and it has been hard to get out of that. Now we have finally gotten over the hump." "It means everything," Harmon said. "The last 20 years, we've been with Burris when we were ranked No. 3 in the state, but would get beat. We couldn't get out. But then, the last few years, to win a couple of sectionals and now to win a regional, it means everything to the school." As has been the case all season, it was the seniors who led Alexandria again on this night. Miller finished with a match high 27 kills, 10 of those coming in the first set before the Zebras made adjustments. Kelly had 15 kills, including the one that put her over 1,000. Mary Sayre finished with 44 assists on the night, and Mackenzie McCarty also had 5 kills. The task accomplished by Kelly was not lost on her or her coaches. "If you know Blaine, that's her character," Harmon said. "Nothing ever bothers her. She's strong-headed, strongwilled and bullheaded. It's hard to get that girl down. That's what I like about Blaine." "This is amazing," said Kelly after the match. "It means so much to us to come out here and be the first. I came out early and was hoping we would get the energy out of our team that we needed and everyone came through." In regards to being the first player with 1,000 kills and 1,000 points, Kelly was humble. "It is a team effort," she said. "Those are things I could not have done without my teammates, or without the support of my coaches and my parents." Alexandria (32-8) will now head to Plymouth for the semi-state round next Saturday against No. 5 Andrean who defeated No. 10 Boone Grove 3-0. The other semi-state contest will see No. 1 Christian Academy face off against N. 3 Covenant Christian. It is worth noting that Alexandria is now the sole public school remaining in Class 2A.

Written By LARRY OLIVER KOKOMO, Ind. 


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