FISHERS — On paper, Thursday night’s volleyball match between state powers Avon and Hamilton Southeastern had all the makings of a potential classic.
The Royals turned it into a blowout.
Class 4A, fifth-ranked HSE cruised past 4A No. 2 Avon, its Hoosier Crossroads Conference rival, 25-21, 25-19, 25-23.
The win was crucial in keeping HSE’s conference title hopes alive. The Royals improved to 1-1 in the HCC and 10-2 overall, while Avon dropped to 1-1 and 8-2.
“It was a big win; a big conference win,” HSE coach Jason Young said. “I think this is the best conference in the state, and losing to Brownsburg (last week) was a tough one. The kids came out wanting to make a statement and control the play.”
They did, despite falling behind 2-0 in all three sets. But the Royals played with composure from behind.
That was most evident in the third set when the Orioles jumped to a 15-10 lead and appeared ready to force a fourth set. But HSE scored five straight points and eventually led 19-17.
Trailing 23-22, Royals junior outside hitter Meredith Phillips tied it with a kill. The Royals forced game point when Avon was penalized for being out of rotation, and HSE senior outside hitter Caitlin Kane finished the match off with an ace.
“We’re a very resilient team,” said Young, whose team captured its first regional title in school history last season and has hopes to make state this year. “We have six seniors and nine players back from last year. We’ve been down before. They were able to get a couple points and take command. They do a great job when they’re down.”
Phillips finished with 11 kills, including three late in the third set to give her team a 21-20 lead, tie the score at 22 and tie it again at 23.
Senior outside hitter Griere Hughes added nine kills, while senior right side Caroline Kirchmer had seven. Senior setter Makenzie Hinshaw added 37 assists, and senior defensive specialist/libero Olivia Burgess recorded 10 digs.
“Hinshaw did a great job of distributing the ball, and Phillips was dominant in the middle,” Young said. “Hughes and Kane on the outside were outstanding.”
Like the final set, the first set was also tight. Leading Avon 10-8, Kirchmer recorded back-to-back kills for a 12-8 lead. Avon never climbed to within three points the rest of the set.
In the second set, HSE broke a 6-6 tie with three straight points on a Kirchmer kill, a Phillips kill and a Kane serving ace to lead 9-6. Avon didn’t mount a serious comeback after that.
“They played better than we did tonight,” Avon coach Scott McQueen said. “They played well defensively and kept alive a lot of balls on the ground.”
About losing the lead in the third set, McQueen said: “We didn’t handle the ball as well as we could have. We can be better. They’re a good team and deserved to win.”
Avon sophomore right side Holly Eastridge paced the Orioles with 11 kills and two blocks.