Mercy Academy’s volleyball team does not want to hear how young it is.
Despite coming into the KHSAA State Volleyball Tournament as the third-ranked team in the state coaches’ poll, the Jaguars have only three seniors on their squad and were faced with playing No. 5 Notre Dame in a first-round match Friday night. They also came into the match without one of their top players, Lauren Myrick, who sprained her foot warming up in the Sixth Region first round match.
Despite all that, the Jaguars (31-10) posted a three-set sweep against the Pandas (24-12), winning 25-18, 25-22, 25-20. Junior Neci Harris has 12 kills to lead Mercy, which also got 11 kills from sophomore Jayme Scott and nine from sophomore Emma Schurfranz.
Mercy forced Notre Dame to commit 17 attack errors in the match, where every set started off close. Each of the three sets featured a 15-all tie and there were 34 ties overall.
“We just knew we had to mix up certain shots to be able to mix their defense up and mess up their offense a little,” Scott said.
The Jaguars ran off eight straight points to break the 15-all first set tie and take control of the opening set, capitalizing on eight Panda errors.
In the second set, Harris posted seven of her kills, three of which came after Mercy trailed 20-19.
Mercy came from behind again to wrap up the match, scoring nine of the final 11 points to overcome an 18-16 deficit. The Pandas helped Mercy’s cause as five of the Jaguars final six points came off a double-hit or other violations.
The Jaguars will open Saturday’s action with a 10 a.m. quarterfinal against No. 16 Greenwood. A victory there advances them to a semifinal that evening, potentially against No. 4 Henry Clay.
If Mercy survives that gauntlet, a championship match on Sunday awaits, possibly with No. 1 Sacred Heart. Mercy has yet to take a set from the Valkyries in four matches this year, but coach Matt Thomerson thinks a tough bracket could make them battle-tested.
He also wouldn’t rule out a weekend return of sophomore Myrick, although he said he did not want to rush her from what he called a “minor” injury.
“I would count her out, but we’ll see,” he said.
Regardless of whether Myrick returns, the Jaguars believe their experienced enough to win this tournament.
“To say we’re a young team, that’s an excuse,” Harris said. “It doesn’t matter how old you are. If you want to win, you are going to work your butt off in practice. You’re going to work your butt off every game.”
In other first-round matches Friday:
–Paige Hammons had 11 kills to lead No. 1 Sacred Heart to a 25-13, 25-13, 25-9 victory over No. 20 Central Hardin.
Abigail Westenhofer (five kills, 15 assists, two aces) and Nadia Dieudonne (12 assists, seven digs) also had solid matches for Sacred Heart (37-4), which will face Apollo in Saturday’s 2:30 p.m. quarterfinal.
–Brooke Hammons had 12 kills and nine digs to lead No. 8 North Oldham to a 25-7, 25-10, 25-16 victory over Allen Central. Gabby Roberts added nine kills for North Oldham (28-9), which will face West Jessamine in Saturday’s 1 p.m. quarterfinal.
–Alexa Davis had 21 kills to lead Greenwood (32-8), which held on to knock off No. 22 Scott 25-19, 25-12, 14-25, 21-25, 15-13, with the tiebreaker set featuring five ties.
–Jordan Coomes had 21 kills and 17 digs to lead No. 19 Apollo (34-5) to a 25-19, 25-22, 14-25, 25-17 victory over Henderson County (29-10). Libbie Dockemeyer led the Colonels with 16 kills.
–Emily Bryant had 11 kills to lead Raceland (30-4) to a 25-15, 25-18, 25-9 victory over Whitley County (30-10). Raceland will face the McCracken County-Henry Clay winner in Saturday’s 11:30 a.m. quarterfinal.
–Tess Perdue had 14 kills and Kala Vanderweele added 13 to lead West Jessamine (31-8) to a 25-6, 25-11, 25-22 victory over Letcher County Central (31-10). Sydney Madden paced Letcher County Central with 11 kills.
–Hallie Shelton had 10 kills and Sierra Gray posted seven aces for Henry Clay (35-6), which swept No. 13 McCracken County 25-20, 25-14, 25-16. Cate Hyde led McCracken County (30-11) with 10 kills.