ANDERSON — Frankton senior Kate Sperry crossed the coveted 1,000-kill barrier against Liberty Christian on Tuesday and helped spark the Eagles to a three-set win.

Sperry went into the match needing 10 kills. She didn’t wait long for the first one. It came with the Lions up 2-1 and it was on the right side. It hit off a block and trickled to the floor. That made it 991, but she had plans for the big one.

“I wanted it to be a big hit,” said Sperry. ”I didn’t want it to come from the back row. I wanted to come off a set right on the net. I wanted it to be perfect.”

She would get four more kills in that opening set, which ended with the Eagles on top 25-18. Teammate Chloee Thomas had three kills in the set. Frankton was on top 20-11 after Thomas’ third kill.

But the Lions came back on the serve of Mady Rees and ran off five straight points before the Eagles put the set to rest.

In the second set the Eagles were up 4-1 and Sperry provided three kills to be just two short of the target. The Lions again fought back to cut the lead to 7-5 and again at 8-6.

Frankton’s Lauryn Bates served three points, one on an ace and one on a Sperry kill. She was one kill away and there was a palpable tension that ran through the gym. With the score 18-9, Sperry twice had chances for 1,000 and twice had hitting errors.

“I was trying a bit too hard,” she admitted. “I wanted to get it over with.”

On the sideline, her Mom and head coach Beth Sperry was in a bit of agony as well.

“She was a bit nervous before the match,” said coach Sperry. “When she got within one, I was saying, ‘You’re killing me over here.’”

But after the Lions made it 18-12 on an Elena Tufts’ kill, a different kind of 1812 overture erupted from the Frankton faithful. Sperry got the pass and set she was looking for and she unleashed her own cannon, putting the ball on the floor for No. 1,000.

“I was just relieved and very happy,” said Sperry. “I had been wanting to get 1,000 since I was in junior high school.”

Helping her get to that plateau was her entire cast of teammates from the four-year run. None of them more critical than senior setter Aleyah Rastetter.

“We’ve been together ever since I started playing volleyball,” said Sperry. “I couldn’t have done this without my teammates.”

Coach Sperry agreed.

“Aleyah can put up a good set from almost anywhere,” she said. “Also, we have such a balanced attack. Having other good hitters actually helps Kate get room for those kills.”

Liberty Christian coach Mike Carey was impressed with the feat.

“I had two All-Americans when I coached in Montana and I’ve never had a player get 1,000 kills.”

The Eagles closed out the second set 25-17 and went on to win the third 25-16. Sperry now has 1,003 kills. Thomas and Gabby Carmack also did some major damage at the net in the final set.

“We have some things yet to work on,” said coach Sperry. “We had too many errors and we didn’t pass the ball as well as I would like.”

The Eagles are also getting used to playing without senior Audrey Cleek, who suffered an injury to her foot last week and her ability to return next week for the sectional is still up in the air.

Frankton returns home Thursday for a big Central Indiana Conference matchup with Mississinewa. “That’s a big one for us,” said Sperry. “We want to win the conference outright.”

The Lions tried a new lineup for Tuesday’s match and coach Carey liked what he saw.

“I was trying it out to see if we could play better defense,” he said. “I thought we played some good defense. There were some long rallies. Frankton hits the ball extremely well. We made some mistakes. We had some serves into the net. But I was pleased with how we played.”

Rick Teverbaugh is the former sports editor of The Herald Bulletin. Contact him at rickteverbaugh@gmail.com.

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