Squaws state-repeat effort ends in regionals
Though a scrappy Bellmont squad fought to leads late in both the first and third games against No. 1 Yorktown Tuesday, the visitors prevailed in the 3A Volleyball Regional with a 3-0 sweep, knocking out the defending state champion Squaws 25-21, 25-11 and 26-24.
"You have to give credit to them, they came into a hostile environment they played as they were supposed to. That's why they're No. 1," stated Bellmont coach Craig Krull.
"We tried, the crowd tried to bring it. It's up to us on the floor. Unfortunately tonight we didn't have the answers."
There was a big crowd for the showdown and Yorktown faced an especially raucous Bellmont student section, which stuck by their team to the end.
All the bullets were fired. It just wasn't enough against a Yorktown team led by standout senior middle hitter Emily Wolfert, who delivered 20 kills, many as she roamed from the middle to the right side, delivering on the run.
In comparison, Bellmont had just 23 kills and the Squaws were led by sophomores Holly and Bailee Hankenson, who had six apiece.
"Our kids came out focused, and I think it's obvious that they're hungry and really want to make a run in this tournament," stated Yorktown coach Stephanie Bloom.
"We really executed our game plan exactly how we asked. The girls did a nice job tonight."
The coach praised Wolfert, and senior slugger Kelsey Barker, who had nine kills. "They're our main offense and they've been huge for us all year. We were able to push balls to the target and run middle transition a lot, and it was effective.
"We knew Bellmont was going to be scrappy and they make some big defensive plays. We knew we had to really stay in it, execute the same thing and fight back."
While the stubborn Yorktown defense got to about everything the Squaws could muster, they also had a stiff block in the middle and targeted Bellmont senior Payton Schultz, who finished with five kills in 24 attempts. Junior Sara Norder came off the bench and delivered four kills for the Squaws.
"In all reality, they played about as I expected," said Krull of Yorktown.
"They are very Muncie-like oriented, very ball control-oriented defensively and have their big hitters. I told the girls in order for us to win we'd have to match that intensity or play almost perfect. Unfortunately we didn't. Just those defensive things were the difference tonight."
Except for a letdown in game two, Bellmont also played strong defensively with several marathon volleys. Bellmont, led by the 23 digs of senior libero Allison Gutierrez and 13 by Holly Hankenson, just could not overcome the sizzling hits of Wolfert and Barker.
For Yorktown, now 34-2 and headed to a Saturday showdown with 30-6 Fort Wayne Concordia at Plymouth, setter Taylor Zwicki had 37 assists. Libero Kati Vasalakis matched Gutierrez with 23 digs and Nikki Box added 21digs for the winners.
"At the start of the first game, we might have been down three or four points, fought back had a lead mid-game, and just let it go — kind of similar to the third game. We had the lead right there at the end and our passing got a little lazy. Yorktown put the pressure on us and we couldn't close the door," noted Krull.
Payton Schultz fired in a kill to start the BHS comeback in game one at 3-6. Both Holly and Bailee Hankenson struck gold and a Payton smash tied the game at 7-7. A Payton block late put BHS up 9-8, then Holly connected from the left side for a kill.
Bellmont eventually went up 15-10 as Yortkown committed some rare miscues. However, a Wolfert kill got Yorktown going. She later delivered between two BHS blockers. Janaya Wilder had a key kill for BHS to tie the game at 17.
A strong serve by Erin Hunter tied the match at 21. A serving error and a kill by Barker jolted Yorktown into the winning momentum in that crucial first game.
Yorktown overwhelmed Bellmont in game two and the Squaws blinked, letting a few balls drop. An ace by Wolfert and a Barker kill pushed Yorktown up 10-3 and they never looked back.
In game three, kills by Holly Hankenson and Norder boosted BHS to a tie at 7-7. The two squads then showed why they are rated among the top three in 3A as they exchanged long volleys.
Two Yorktown miscues and a Norder kill put Bellmont up 18-16. A Bailee kill and another shot by Norder put BHS up 20-17. A block by Bailee extended that lead to 22-18.
A Wolfert kill tied the match at 23, then Payton connected from the right side for Bellmont's final lead. Two strong hits by Wolfert helped Yorktown close out the victory as Bellmont finished the season a strong 29-6.
Four-year starting setter Steph Shoup had 22 assists, and had six digs as she moved down the right sideline for several saves, and that kept her from running the offense at times. Wilder finished with two kills and four digs and Bailee Hankenson had seven digs and two solo blocks.
"Those two kids beat us in that first match in August, and they beat us again tonight. Wolfert ... she is very good," praised Krull.
"I have to be happy with the year, considering our schedule and all of the kids we lost to graduation. We still had a great year for Bellmont, especially those seniors who had to step up this year. I thought they played great.
"It was a great year here at Bellmont and some of those younger kids learned a lot and saw what to expect in the future."