By Todd Lancaster
---- — JASPER The Washington Hatchet volleyball team has made big strides over the last 12 months. However, they also know that to take the next big step, it will mean getting past the Jasper Wildcats.
The Wildcats defeated Washington in three games on Thursday, 25-17, 25-19 and 25-21 in the opening-round of IHSAA volleyball tournament action, played in Jasper's new Varsity Gym."We have made good progress from last year and I was proud of the way they never gave up," said Hatchet coach Alicia Hand.
"We told the girls all week that we had to have that fight and drive, and not let them take points in every set. We had to have it from the start and I thought we did. We also fought back every time."The Hatchets took the court after a marathon five-game match between Vincennes and Mitchell and hung close for the first five points of Game 1.
The Cats stretched the lead out to 10-4, but a kill from Lyndsey Carrico and a point from Emily Sullender help bring WHS back to being down just 13-11. Jasper then again stretched the margin to 20-12, but a statement kill from Megan Arnold and a block kill from Lauren Terry sparked a comeback before Jasper finally went on a 5-1 run to secure the win.In Game 2, Jasper rolled out to a 9-2 start. However, kills from Arnold and a tip from Sullender pushed the margin to just two points, and forced a Jasper timeout at 14-12. The Hatchets then cut the lead to just one at 17-16, before Jasper went on an 8-3 run to take the 25-19 win. In the final game, WHS again came out strong, as Arnold helped serve their way to an early 5-5 tie.The Hatchets remained close at 9-7, but Jasper pushed out to 18-10 and 20-14 lead, before Washington's final momentum moved them to 21-24, before Jasper's 25-21 win and the right to play Lincoln in the semifinal round Saturday morning.
Washington was led in serving by Adriana Fidler with two aces, Arnold with two blocks and seven kills, Terry with six kills and Jordan Carr with 20 assists.
"We told our outside hitters, that they have to fight, so our middle hitter is not our only option and I think we did that tonight," said Hand.
Sullender, Carr and Terry led with seven digs each, while Fidler and Arnold had six each, followed by Carrico with five digs.
"We made a huge jump from last year. I told them that we need to keep this going in the off season. Every time you get a chance to get around a ball do it. We are going to have to keep lifting weights, working out and playing club volleyball," Hand added. "We can't lose our focus. We have to focus on that sectional win. We hate to lose our seniors, but have a good core of juniors coming back.
It was the final game for seniors Carrico, Fidler and Miriam Ibarra.
The sectional final will take place at 7 p.m. on Saturday.