Five things to know as the Indiana high school volleyball tournament begins:
Orioles flying high
Scott McQueen has been at the helm of the Avon volleyball program for 15 seasons, and the Orioles have 15 consecutive sectional titles. They show few signs of slowing down, sporting a 28-9 record heading into their sectional opener against Terre Haute North on Thursday night.
No reason for concern in Avon, right? Not so fast.
The Class 4A No. 2 Orioles dropped both matches to sectional rival No. 13 Brownsburg this season. They could face the Bulldogs in the championship match.
Other losses on the Orioles’ schedule (Hamilton Southeastern, Crown Point and Cathedral) aren’t bad ones, but they might raise some concerns about how Avon could fare late in the tournament. But McQueen isn’t concerned.
“Confidence shouldn’t be driven from results,” he said. “You either have confidence in your abilities or you don’t. The kids know what our limitations have been and know what we’ve had to work on to attack those weaknesses. It’s shown as the season’s gone on that we’ve made some improvements.”
The Orioles use a dominant front line. Jael Johnson has 405 kills (and also leads the team with 120 blocks) while Holly Eastridge has 282 kills. Three others have more than 100.
Cathedral hopes experience leads to success
The Irish, voted the nation’s best team last year, have lost four matches this season and are ranked No. 4 in Indiana. Yet despite early-season losses to 4A No. 1 Crown Point and No. 9 Lawrence North, as well as a loss to Avon, the Irish have won seven straight matches in dominant fashion.
Coach Jean Kesterson says winning a title last year will help her team when it comes to the must-win pressure of the tournament.
“Our experience of knowing you have to keep your composure in tough situations and not panic (will help),” she said. “We proved that a lot last year. When people were pushing us to the brink, we would find ways to win. I don’t think they ever lost composure.”
All-American Nia Robinson leads the team with 446 kills (5.2 per set) this season. She has a hit rate of .367, up from .358 a season ago.
The Irish open sectional play against Lawrence Central and could likely face a rematch with Lawrence North in the semifinals.
“We’ve watched a lot of film on them and we’re ready to make adjustments throughout the match,” Kesterson said.
Hamilton Southeastern faces early test
The Royals, ranked No. 3 in the state, are looking to repeat as sectional champions. Their only losses on the season are to 4A No. 7 Carmel, Brownsburg, 3A No. 3 Delta and Perry Meridian.
Meredith Phillips leads the lead with 372 kills and Caitlin Kane has 311. Kane also leads the team with 955 attack attempts. Lark Jones has 101 blocks.
Hamilton Southeastern will face Carmel in the semifinals Saturday.
Lawrence North battling inconsistency
Despite a 23-10 record, the Wildcats have been plagued by inconsistency. After an early September win against Cathedral, they lost four of six matches before winning seven straight matches from late September to early October. But all of that goes out the window this week.
“I think they understand that the big week is coming up,” coach Nick Cox said. “We don’t want to make the whole season about the sectionals, but ultimately that is what every team is playing for.”
Madeleine Dean (374), Lizzie Beasley and Lauren Matthews (261) lead the team in kills. Dean leads the team with 821 attack attempts and Beasley has a team-high 34 aces.
Streaks and firsts on the line:
No. 6 Center Grove could win its fourth sectional title in five years. … Carmel could win its fourth in five years. … Covenant Christian (2A No. 4) is looking for just its second overall sectional title and first since 2010. … New Palestine (3A No. 7) is looking for its first sectional title since 1989. … Cardinal Ritter, Bishop Chatard and Guerin Catholic are also ranked in the final volleyball poll.