After seeing Assumption volleyball survive a couple of match points and then block her to win the second set of the Ultra Ankle Louisville Invitational Volleyball Tournament’s Gold Division championship, the Sacred Heart senior knew it wasn’t time to hold back.
Instead, she propelled her Valkyries in the decisive third set to knock off the Rockets – the top-ranked team in Kentucky’s state coaches’ poll – and win the LIVT 25-17, 25-27, 25-20. She recorded three of her 22 kills during a five-point third set stretch, where the No. 2 Valkyries (10-1) saw their lead grow to 17-10.
The Rockets (14-2) never got closer than four points after that, and it was Hammons, whose orange headband represents her commitment to the University of Florida, who ended the match with a kill.
“On game point, I won’t tip a ball,” she said. “I want to swing. I want to get the point. I don’t want to play safe. So, I just came back out swinging (in the third set). One block, it doesn’t really matter.”
In winning the LIVT, the Valkyries needed to beat some of the best teams in the state and country. After sweeping their preliminary matches Friday night, they knocked off Mercy, ranked No. 3 in Kentucky, 25-9, 25-20. They followed that up by rallying to beat Marietta (Ga.) Walton – the No. 8 team in the USA Today Super 25 national poll – 23-25, 25-21, 25-22 to setup a rematch with the Rockets, the fifth-ranked team in the national poll.
“We got the talent and the ability to play with anyone,” said Sacred Heart coach Brett Versen, whose team is ranked No. 15 in the USA Today poll. “It definitely gives us a little bit of confidence knowing that, hey on any given day, we can go up there and play and swing and serve and pass and play defense just like anybody else.”
After the Valkyries never trailed in the first set, they appeared on the verge of sweeping the Rockets. They trailed 10-6 and 17-14 in the second set, but rallied to tie the set at 19. They then took a 24-22 lead only to see the Rockets reel off five of the final six points to force the tiebreaking set.
Assumption coach Ron Kordes said he was proud of the way his team battled back from the brink, but Sacred Heart, who the Rockets swept at home on Aug. 31, came out aggressive in the final.
“That’s the thing we preach: You got to be patient,” he said. “You got to keep your composure. We lost it there a little bit. And that’s not saying anything against Sacred Heart. You don’t lose your composure for no reason.”
Kordes wins 1,000th career match: En route to the final Saturday, Assumption knocked off Notre Dame, the No. 6 team in Kentucky, in the quarterfinals and St. Joseph’s Academy from St. Louis in the semis. In beating St. Joseph’s, the No. 16 team in the USA Today poll, it gave Kordes his 1,000th career victory as a coach.
Kordes recalled playing a match in Muncie, Ind., when he was getting started in his career, and up in the rafters, he saw a banner acknowledging that school’s coach for reaching the milestone.
“It’s something I never imagined would ever happen when I got started,” he said.