A new queen will reign over Kentucky high school volleyball this season.
Sacred Heart, the third-ranked team in the state coaches’ poll, defeated No. 2 Assumption 25-22, 25-20, 25-23 Wednesday to win the Seventh Region semifinal match at Valley and end the Rockets (32-6) four-year run as state champions.
The Valkyries (26-12) will face Christian Academy, which rallied from two sets down to knock out Male in the other regional semifinal, in the championship at 8 p.m. tonight at Valley. The No. 13 Centurions (26-12) won 24-26, 16-25, 25-22, 25-14, 15-12.
In the sweep, Sacred Heart needed to stage comebacks in each of the sets.
“Poise is the word,” Sacred Heart coach Eric Garvey said. “I just thought we really kept our composure.”
That was never more evident than in the final set, when Assumption led 23-21 and seemed on the verge of forcing a fourth set. But the Valkyries scored the final four points of the match, with Paige Hammons’ kill the decisive point.
“I think if it would have gone to a fourth set, it would have gone to a fifth,” said the sophomore outside hitter, who finished with a team-high 13 kills.
Wednesday’s victory marked the second time this month Sacred Heart knocked off a team that was ranked nationally as high as second this season (Assumption did win a five-set match between the two schools on Oct. 12). In addition, the Valkyries also knocked off Mercy, which was the top-ranked team in the PrepVolleyball.com and MaxPreps national rankings.
Assumption coach Ron Kordes sees something familiar in Sacred Heart.
“They’re kinda like us last season,” he said. That Rockets squad “got tired of losing. People better not overlook this team.”
In the first set, Assumption led most of the way, four times building three-point leads, but consecutive kills by Hammons and Lauryn Bennett would give the Valkyries a 17-16 lead. While the Rockets would twice tie the set from that point, Sacred Heart would eventually pull away.
The Rockets would jump out early in the second set, taking a 4-0 lead. But Sacred Heart would whittle away at that advantage. Mary Ann Smith had three kills in the set to help in the comeback. The teams would battle back and forth midway through the set, tying seven times – the last at 18 – before the Valkyries pulled away.
Sacred Heart would come out strong in the third set, as Hammons had three kills early in the set to help the Valkyries jump out 8-2. But Assumption this time would be the ones to rally. They would lead by two late before the Valkyries would end their season with the final four points.
Bennett added 10 kills for the Valkyries, whose roster includes 12 sophomores. Julia Boswell, one of only five seniors, added nine kills while junior Anna Zwiebel had 39 assists to set up the offensive attack.
“If the back row sets us, we can get a good kill on it,” Bennett said.
When congratulated on the Rockets’ accomplishments and reminded all runs must end, Kordes sighed with a smile, paused and said “Why?”
“I told the girls we had a good year,” he added. “Last year, we peaked at the right time. This year, we played our best ball three or four weeks ago.”
Eighth Region: In another match Wednesday night, North Oldham defeated Simon Kenton 25-15, 25-17, 25-19.