It is volleyball sectional week, and all of the 10 area teams will hit the road to begin postseason play. No area teams are hosting this season, and some will be traveling farther than others but all will be looking to do what no area team did a season ago, which is to advance to regional as a sectional champion.
The first round will be played Tuesday and Thursday with semifinals to be held Saturday morning followed by the championship matches that evening.
Here is a glance at the sectional sites and matchups for area teams:
AT NEW CASTLE
If the pairings look familiar, they should. The draw at New Castle was identical to a year ago, with Pendleton Heights facing Greenfield-Central and Anderson playing Mount Vernon on Tuesday with Yorktown vs. Muncie Central and the Trojans taking on Richmond on Thursday to complete the first round.
The Madison County champion Arabians (20-8) have won their last three matches of the regular season, despite losing star junior Avery Ross to injury for the season in late September. They face a tough first-round matchup against the Cougars, who finished 19-8, including a 3-0 win over PH earlier this season.
The attacking for PH will fall to sophomore Hannah Grile and Ross’ freshman sister, Mikala, each of whom scored 182 kills with junior Gabby Ennis adding 151. Sophomore libero Ramsey Gary (47 aces, 328 digs) will anchor the defense, and junior setter Olivia Wright (666 assists) posted one of several breakout performances for the Arabians.
The experienced Cougars are led by seniors Ava Antic (297 kills), Molly Swartzkopf (79 blocks), and Rachel Campbell (431 digs).
Anderson (4-17) showed vast improvement in competitiveness under first-year coach Beth Etchison but faces a tough first matchup in Class 4A ninth-ranked Mount Vernon (20-4), winners of nine in a row.
Senior Lexi Swanson leads the Tribe with 92 kills while junior setter Lauryn Williams has posted 29 aces and 217 assists. Swanson (117 digs) and senior libero Katie Wynne (107 digs) lead the Indians defensively.
Junior Cecilia Buhlman leads the Marauders' attack with 397 kills this season.
The brackets at this Kokomo site seem to be set up for a Madison-Grant (20-11) vs. Tipton (24-6) clash in Saturday’s championship match.
The Argylls, fresh off their Grant 4 championship Saturday, open their tournament Thursday evening with a match against Blackford (2-25) and, with a win, would face Eastbrook (12-15) in Saturday morning’s second semifinal. The Blue Devils will take on the host Titans (0-11) in the first semifinal.
Juniors Katie Garringer (188 kills) and Grace Holmberg (154 kills) lead a balanced Argylls attack with no less than five players totaling over 100 kills. Sophomore Alexis Baney has recorded 77 blocks this season, and junior Gabby Rudy gets the ball to the finishers with 477 assists. Sophomore libero Daya Greene is one of the best defenders in the area with 252 digs.
M-G swept both Blackford and Eastbrook this season, and won a five-set match at Tipton back in August, with Baney recording 12 blocks.
Four Madison County teams will venture to Selma, home of Class 2A’s second-ranked and defending state runners up Wapahani Raiders.
Tuesday’s lone first-round match will pit Central Indiana Conference rivals Frankton (19-10) and Elwood (9-21) with the winner set to face Monroe Central (12-11) in the first semifinal Saturday.
The Eagles have won three matches in a row and seven of their last nine and are led by seniors Chloee Thomas (256 kills, 57 blocks) and Chainey Lowe (256 digs) as well as freshman breakout player Holli Klettheimer (239 kills, 62 aces). Setters Emma Smith and Callie Thomas have combined for 744 assists and 77 aces for Frankton.
For the Panthers, a 2020 season of high hopes struggled to get untracked due to injuries and players missing matches due to Covid-19 contact tracing. They are led by junior Jaleigh Crawford with 212 kills, 36 aces, 27 blocks and 188 digs and senior libero Lauren Hughes, who recorded 344 digs and 60 aces in her first season with Elwood after transferring from Frankton. Junior setter Katie Morris added 343 assists and 20 aces.
Thursday, the first round resumes with Lapel (14-8) having the first crack at Wapahani (22-5) prior to Alexandria (21-8) versus Winchester (7-15). Thursday’s winners will meet in Saturday’s second semifinal.
The Bulldogs feature solid attacking from juniors Ashlynn Allman (220 kills) and Emma Anderson (149 kills), but the biggest strength for the team is the defense. Seniors Avery Bailey (262 digs) and Madi Carpenter (210 digs) will need to be at their best against the Raiders. Junior Emma Jackley recorded 525 assists this season, including the 1,000th of her career.
Sophomores Chloe Cook and Camryn Wise and senior Mallory Summers have each recorded over 200 kills for the Raiders.
The Tigers have received another standout season from senior Kaitlyn Bair (297 kills) as well as junior Taylor Stinefield (172 kills, 32 blocks) while senior Lauren Dungan (146 kills, 40 aces and 296 digs) is one of the top all-around talents in the county. Junior setter Kendall Parker leads all area players with 759 assists, but Alex will be without junior libero Carlie Remington (219 digs) after a late-season knee injury.
The Golden Falcons are led by junior Gena Moore’s 196 kills.
AT EASTERN HANCOCK
Shenandoah (17-11) will be heavily favored in its Tuesday opener against the host Royals (9-18) before things get much tougher Saturday in a field where six of the seven teams have winning records.
The Raiders are led by a quartet of dynamic seniors in Erikka Hill (412 kills, 57 aces, 54 blocks), Bridget Lohrey (97 aces, 319 digs), Audrey Duncan (42 aces, 165 digs) and Jenna Stewart (192 kills, 20 blocks). According to Maxpreps, Lohrey’s ace total is fourth best in the state, and the libero has also assumed much of the setting duties due to injuries.
Lili Hunt leads the Royals' attack with 214 kills. The winner will face Union County (18-12) in the first Saturday semifinal with the winners of Thursday’s games between Knightstown (18-9) and defending champ Hagerstown (19-7) and Centerville (13-10) against Northeastern (14-11) rounding out the semifinals.
Daleville (5-14) drew the host and defending state champion Blackhawks (20-4) to open sectional play Thursday, and the winner will meet Tri-Central (10-22) in Saturday’s semifinal.
The Broncos are led in attacking by Audrey Voss and Ava Papai with Emilee Finley doing the setting. Senior Sarah Sizemore is an all-around talent who anchors the Daleville defense.
Thursday’s second game features Wes-Del (14-14) taking on Southern Wells (1-26), and the winner will meet Mady Rees, Kaitlyn Smith and the Liberty Christian Lions (2-9) in Saturday’s second semifinal match.