New Castle opened the season with state title aspirations. That goal appeared to take a devastating hit Saturday morning, though, when setter Kiley Lingenfelter sprained an ankle in the morning semifinal of the Class 4A New Castle Sectional.
The sprained ankle hobbled Lingenfelter to the point that she spent the entire afternoon receiving treatment from New Castle athletic trainer Matt Matanich, and the injury so upset her that she vomited six times between the semifinal and championship matches.
Yet, Lingenfelter managed to overcome all of that to take the court Saturday night against No. 5 Yorktown in the final. She played steady and her teammates picked up their games in support as New Castle rolled Yorktown 25-15, 25-16, 26-24 to win its sectional championship. The Trojans advance to play Bishop Chatard in the regional at 7 p.m. Tuesday at New Castle.
“Most incredible kid I know,” New Castle coach Mike Dodrill said of Lingenfelter before choking up a bit. “It’s just that tenacity. Moments before the game she could barely walk. … She played remarkable.”
Lingenfelter hobbled noticeably in warm-ups and on certain points, but she played the entire match and managed 35 assists.
“Once I got in, the adrenaline kind of kicked in and it was all good from there,” Lingenfelter said. “I mean I noticed it. It hurt like crap, but you just push through it.”
The Trojans passed effectively enough that they stayed in system and limited the number of times Lingenfelter sprinted to chase down balls. Libero Brianna Heffernan (10 digs) and freshman defensive specialist Karleigh Wilson (six digs), in particular, passed with precision.
“Everyone knew after what happened to me that we were really going to have to pick it up, because they knew they were going to have to do everything right for it to work,” Lingenfelter said.
Yorktown took New Castle out of system with its service pressure for significant stretches in the regular season. The Trojans took five sets that match to beat the Tigers, but by applying service pressure and staying in system Saturday night, they exposed holes in the Yorktown defense and won with relative ease.
The Trojans attacked setter side, putting tips and throws into the wide open corners vacated by the Tigers.
“They’ve got a couple guys in the back and they haven’t seen a lot of volleyball or they’re expecting us to pound it down, so we just dispersed the court and we were OK to find the holes,” Dodrill said.
New Castle ran a balanced attack by utilizing its middles against a Yorktown defense that excels at blocking the outsides. Senior outside hitter Lauryn Gillis still paced the Trojans with 15 kills, but middles Laryssa Welch and Payton Anderson combined for 19.
“We watched more film on them and figured out where we needed to hit the ball more,” Anderson said. “Corners were a big thing.”
Yorktown coach Stephanie Bloom said her team played on its heels until late in the match. New Castle set the tone by scoring 10 of the first 11 points in the opening set.
“They really went at us at the start of game 1,” Bloom said. “We didn’t respond like we needed to and I think it just set us on the wrong foot.”
Yorktown finished its first season as a 4A team with a 30-3 record.
The Tigers won each of their previous four sectionals in 3A, but they moved up 4A this season in accordance with the newly implemented IHSAA success factor rule.
“It doesn’t do any good to dwell on it,” Bloom said. “I think it’s unfortunate that because you have been so successful that you are penalized for it. … But it is what it is. We played New Castle earlier in the year. Did we have an opportunity if we would have played like we’re capable of? Sure.”