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NEW CASTLE -- Collins captured the first hardware for the new high school’s trophy case Wednesday night.
The Titans topped Shelby County, 25-17, 15-25, 25-18, in the 30th District final at Henry County High School to claim the school’s first postseason award.
“It was amazing,” Collins junior middle blocker Ashley Williams said. “We’ve been preparing for this win for so long.”
Williams' 13 kills led the Titans to their third victory of the season - all three of which went the full three sets - over the Rockets. Both teams advance to next week’s Eighth Region Tournament.
“It’s really exciting,” Williams said. “Now I’m ready to bring home that regional trophy.”
Williams & Co. opened up an lead midway through the first set against Shelby County. Leanna Armstrong’s ace gave the Titans an 18-11 advantage. However after a timeout the Rockets reeled off five of the next six points to pull within 19-16.
But Collins (22-2) came back with five in a row. The Titans clinched the set moments later on a kill by Williams.
Collins looked like it might make quick work of Shelby, pulling out to an 8-4 lead at the start of the second set. The Rockets, however, ran off six consecutive points to take a 10-8 lead.
“We’re known as the ‘Comeback Kids,’ we never give up until somebody hits 25,” Shelby County Coach Felicia Pace said. “We had some key saves and key blocks that kept us in there.”
The Titans trimmed the Rockets’ lead to one several times, the last time at 15-14. Shelby, though, outscored Collins, 10-1, down the stretch to take the second set.
“We really wanted it to be two [sets] this time, but we really had too many unforced errors in Game 2,” said Titans coach Abbey Buchert, whose team beat Anderson County, 25-11, 25-15, in Tuesday night‘s district semifinal. “But you can’t make those kind of mistakes and expect to beat a good team.”
The third set began with an Armstrong kill off a block that gave the Titans a lead they wouldn’t relinquish. Still, Shelby hung tough. The Rockets (13-14) closed within 11-10 midway through the third set before Collins scored five in a row.
“It was just being aggressive,” Buchert said. “We really didn’t have any aggressiveness in set two. But we didn’t get in that ‘I’m sad, I’m down on myself when I make a mistake’ mode, and that’s what we did well in sets one and three.”
The Rockets had one last rally, however, cutting Collins’ lead to 17-14. Down the stretch, though, the Titans had too much Williams.
“She just got hot, and they were solo blocking her,” Buchert said. “I knew if we kept feeding her the ball, she would keep ripping it...She’s one of those players who doesn’t crack under pressure and she wanted this more than anything.”
Armstrong, a senior outside hitter, added seven kills and four aces, while junior right side hitter Allison Henshaw contributed five kills. Senior libero Kassie Bruner and senior setter Heather Luce joined Williams on the all-district tournament team.
Ariana Jones and Shelby Tooke led Shelby with five kills, and all-district tournament team members Akia Jones added four kills and Caty Hawkins handed out 11 assists.