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NEW CASTLE—Bellmont coach Craig Krull has always espoused the theory that his team will only get better by playing the better teams in volleyball and the Squaws moved to 11-4 this weekend by splitting a pair of games with ranked foes in the annual New Castle Invitational.
Long-time volleyball power Muncie Central (which this season has moved down to class 3A from class 4A) provided the competition in the morning match for the Squaws and the fifth-ranked Bearcats held on to survive a 27-25, 23-25, 25-19, 25-23 match with Bellmont. In the afternoon encounter with the host Trojans, Bellmont allowed a 25-27 New Castle victory in the first game but then was all business in the next three games winning 25-14, 25-21, 25-21.
Muncie Central entered the tournament ranked fifth in class 3A (Bellmont was third) and New Castle was third in class 4A. The other team in the invitational, Penn, was ranked eighth in class 4A but dominated both Muncie Central and New Castle in action.
Krull said while he truly feels the Squaws are "a better team" than Muncie Central is, "we had several opportunities to score and couldn't capitalize. Then when Muncie had their chances, they did score. When it came down to important points in the game, we couldn't get them."
The coach said he thought the serving and passing game improved greatly in the nightcap against New Castle which allowed the Squaws to win.
"Our serving picked up considerably from the morning game to the afternoon and that really helped. The passes were more on target and allowed us to control the tempo of the game as New Castle wasn't really able to do much of what they wanted to do. We had better hitting, blocking, really we played much better in the second game," he noted.
The Bellmont hitting attack was led by senior Payton Schultz who was 13-21 against Muncie Central and then was virtually unstoppable against New Castle knocking in 13-16 tries. She also had three aces in both matches, and defensively had a total of three digs, three solo blocks, and six assisted blocks.
Against New Castle, Bellmont had three other hitters who were at 50 percent or better with Holly Hankenson nailing 15-30, Janaya Wilder going 7-14, and Steph Shoup hitting 5-10. The only other Bellmont player to connect on at least half of their attacks in a game Saturday was Sarah Norder against Muncie Central where she was 4-8.
In the opener, Shoup and Bailee Hankenson handed out 23 and 15 assists respectively, Allison Gutierrez had 19 digs from her libero position, and Bailee and Holly Hankenson had 10 and nine kills each. Holly Hankenson scooped up 12 digs.
Holly Hankenson actually had more kills against New Castle than Schultz did with 15 and she added 11 digs along with a pair of aces. Sister Bailee had 14 assists, eight digs, three kills, two aces, and sparkled on the front line defensively with three solo blocks and four assisted rejections. Gutierrez against topped the Squaws with 18 digs while Erin Hunter had three, and Shoup put together two aces and four digs.
"I thought the players all did pretty much what they've done all year. Allison played well from her libero position and was very consistent getting 19 digs against Muncie and 18 against New Castle. The hitting was better in the second game as a result of the passing and serving," he concluded.
Bellmont has some time off this week with only an away match at New Haven on Thursday in which the Squaws are heavily favored.