Panthers to face tourney-savvy Squaws
Opposites will be attacking tonight at the Teepee.
Bellmont, one of the most consistent winners in Indiana volleyball history with 27 sectional championships, will play host tonight to Western, which now has exactly two sectional titles in its school history.
"Our game goal was to win sectional," said second-year Western head coach Lindsay Reinking.
"We know we're coming in as underdog. We don't feel like we have any pressure so we'll just come in and do our best, and hopefully pull a win out of it."
Bellmont comes in at 31-4 and as the Northeast Hoosier Conference champs after a fifth straight perfect 7-0 league run. Western is 24-4 and won the Mid-Indiana Conference with a 6-1 mark.
The big step for Western was getting past Frankfort.
"We've been working since last year's sectional when we got beat by Frankfort. Our goal was to beat them in the regular season, and the second goal was to win sectional. Western hadn't won a sectional since 1985, so that haunted us," noted the coach, who played two years at Huntington College and two years at Goshen College.
"We beat Frankfort in the regular season match, they beat us in a tourney, then we got them in the sectional.
After a "slow start," which resulted in a Frankfort win in game one, Western came back strong in the next three games to earn its tourney title. "Frankfort kind of fell apart," Reinking noted.
Though the two schools have opposite traditions — Bellmont is seeking a 12th regional crown and Western a first — they both have solid front lines. Bellmont has 6-2 senior Madison Schultz in the middle, and Western will counter with 6-2 Sable Staller, who has received a scholarship to the University of Buffalo in New York.
Bellmont has a 6-0 senior who will play division one volleyball in Alex Fuelling, a three-time All-State player. Western will counter with 5-9 Taylor Ruch, a senior left side hitter, and 5-10 junior middle hitter Nicole Rogers.
Bellmont has strong seniors Payton Schultz and Emily Pierce as front row sluggers. Shelby Spall is a senior right-side hitter for Western.
Western is led by 5-4 senior setter Jessie Meeks. Bellmont counters with 6-0 junior Steph Shoup.
Sam Hemming is Western's senior libero, while Bellmont counters with senior Chelsea Colclasure, a four-year player, and junior defensive specialist Allison Gutierrez.
Taylor Young is a junior left side hitter for Western. Bellmont will use frosh Bailee Hankenson and Holly Hankenson as front row subs.
"We go all over the place (with the offense). We feel like we have a solid front row from every spot," said Reinking.
"We do like to set short and long hits out of middle, but there are a bunch of different plays that we run."
The second-year coach feels that her frontliners have a solid block, though it's not as good as she feels it could be.
The Panthers' back row "is pretty scrappy at times. They pick up a lot of stuff. As long as we're playing at our level, we can pick up anthing that's thrown at us," declared Reinking.
Western sports six seniors and six juniors. Reinking does little subbing.
Reinking graduated from Logansport High School in 2000.