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LAWRENCEBURG – Top-seeded Shelby County overcame a sluggish start Monday night to sweep Spencer County in the 30th District Volleyball Tournament semifinals at Anderson County.
The Rockets beat the Bears, 26-24, 25-17, 25-8, to earn a spot in Tuesday night’s district final against the host Bearcats, whom they beat twice during the regular season.
Anderson County ousted Collins, 3-1 (25-17, 17-25, 25-15, 25-22), in the second semifinal.
SCHS 3, Spencer 0
The Rockets (17-6), who had defeated Spencer, 3-0 in each of their two regular-season matches, grabbed a quick lead before the Bears (14-21) mounted a spirited comeback, tying the score at 19-all.
After the lead went back-and-forth, Shelby County finally prevailed when senior middle blocker Shelby Tooke delivered a kill on the clinching point.
“It is always hard to beat a team three times,” Rockets Coach Felicia Pace said. “I told the girls they were going to have to play today. When we get to the tournament, we are all on the same level. Just one team has to step up.”
Pace saw her team in a battle at the outset.
“I could see that it [Spencer County] was very intense and ready to go,” she said. “When they started to serve, I said, ‘They have come ready to play.’”
After the first set, however, Pace reminded her team that it had earned the tournament’s top seed and should take control.
“I told the girls we were bus drivers, not bus riders. I told them to get back to driving the bus,” she said.
Shelby County seized control in the second set and the Rockets were never seriously threatened after that as they won for the 13th time in their previous 14 matches.
Senior outside hitter Ariana Jones led the way for Shelby, with 16 kills and 10 digs. Also for the Rockets, Tooke finished with five kills and nine digs, junior Kyndle Pace tallied four kills, five digs and five solo blocks, and sophomore setter Leslie Sloan dished out 15 assists to go along with her five kills and 14 digs.
Anderson 3, Collins 1
Monday’s nightcap, which featured a pair of teams that had split two regular-season meetings, more than lived up to expectations. After two sets, each team had 42 points. Throughout the match, extended volleys were the rule, not the exception.
Even after the Bearcats (19-15) seemed to finally be wresting control late in the fourth set, the Titans (11-19) made one final push that prompted an Anderson County timeout, when the Bearcats were just one point from victory.
“We told them to take deep breaths,” said Anderson assistant coach Bobby Hardin, who was directing the team Monday. “We told the girls to relax and come back out and get this one.
Instead, Collins senior middle blocker Aaliyah Wells scored on a tip to bring the Titans to 24-22 before the Bearcats finally put away the match.
Anderson County finally began to pull away late in the fourth set after Wells had delivered a pair of kills to tie things at 13. On the next volley, Anderson's Shelbi Savoie dropped a kill in the middle of the Titans’ defense.
Then, Savoie blocked Wells from getting a momentum-changing spike.
“That was really a big play,” Hardin said. “Our middles [Savoie and Liberty O'Neal] played extremely well.”
Collins Coach Abby Buchert agreed. “Their [Anderson's] middle blockers shut down our senior,” she said.
Wells played gallantly, delivering a host of powerful hits and soft tips. She and sophomore MiChaela Stoudemire were often able to match Savoie and O'Neal up front, but Collins was never able to put together any kind of sustained offense.
Service and passing errors plagued the Titans throughout the contest.
“Our youth really showed tonight,” said Buchert, who had led Collins to the district championship the past two seasons. “We only have three seniors on the team.
“Anderson County has had it all season, but we have had to dig for it.”
30th District Tournament
At Anderson County
V: Shelby County def. Spencer County, 26-24, 25-17, 25-8
SCHS stats: Ariana Jones 16 kills, 10 digs; Shelby Tooke 5 kills, 9 digs; Leslie Sloan 5 kills, 15 assists, 14 digs; Kyndle Pace 4 kills, 5 digs, 5 solo blocks.
V: Anderson County def. Collins25-17, 17-25, 25-15, 25-22
Shelby County (17-6) vs. Anderson County (19-15)