Squaws take aim at state crown
Bellmont volleyball coach Craig Krull feels that the outcome of Bellmont's 3A State Volleyball Finals match with No. 1 Brebeuf will likely not be decided by the major players for both squads.
"I believe that this is going to come down to which team's role players are better," said Krull, whose Squaws will be seeking a second state title in four years when they line up opposite the Jesuit Braves at 5:30 p.m. tomorrow at Ball State's Worthen Arena.
"We match up dominant middle for middle, dominant outside for outside, setter for setter, but can our other outside hitter outplay their outside hitter? Can our other middle outplay their opposite middle hitter? Can our defensive players outplay theirs?" said the coach, noting that those answers might tell the story.
"We are better in the other positions (especially libero), but we have to go out and play like it. I am always more worried about what we are going to do. Actually, I am worried about how are we going to play. I will be concerned with stopping what Brebeuf usually does. We will work on stopping their go-to plays and players," noted Coach Krull.
The two teams, which met in the 2007 season in the state semi-finals, with Bellmont winning, are remarkably similar this year. Both squads lost to Yorktown, with Bellmont avenging that loss last week in the semistate finals. Brebeuf lost to Bishop Chatard in that same tourney in late August, while Bellmont defeated Chatard. The Squaws enter at 34-4 with an 18-match winning streak since falling to unbeaten and 2A favorite Muncie Burris. Brebeuf has won 25 straight since the loss to Yorktown, going 31-2.
The Squaws main slugger is 6-0 Alex Fuelling, a three-time All-Stater who played on the 2007 state team. She has 482 kills and 35 blocks, and that compares with the 384 kills and 53 blocks of 5-11 Brebeuf senior Jeme Obeime.
Brebeuf's 6-1 senior middle blocker Sloane White has 403 kills and 80 blocks, while Bellmont's 6-2 Madison Schultz, who is finishing her senior year very strong, has 272 kills and 73.5 blocks.
Bellmont's Chelsea Colclasure, a four-year regular, has 470 digs as libero, while Brebeuf senior libero Jadyn Yarling has 334 digs. Krull feels he has a slight advantage there, especially with the way Colclasure has come on during the tournament.
Krull is counting on his other players to make the difference and that starts with junior (5-10) Payton Schultz, whose 16 kills in 20 attempts inspired Bellmont to come from behind to beat Yorktown. Payton has 249 kills and 34 blocks and there has been no letdown when she's up front in place of Madison. Brebeuf's 5-11 Sierra Witham has 112 kills and 56 blocks as a middle hitter, and 5-9 Athena McDaniel has 79 kills and 44 blocks.
Bellmont defensive specialist Allison Gutierrez had 18 of her 203 digs against Yorktown and looks extremely confident. Brebeuf has specialist Hillary Porter with 186 digs.
Junior outside hitter (5-10) Kristin Hullett has 131 kills and 18 blocks for the Braves while Bellmont counters with senior Emily Pierce, who has 160 kills and 10.5 blocks. She has 175 digs to the 52 of Hullett.
The Squaws appear to have more depth than the defending champs.
The inspired play of Bellmont's role players "opens up a ton of options for us," said Krull.
"Their blockers are going to have to be aware of all our hitters and not just focus on Alex or Madison. The emergent play of our offense can give defenses some trouble. It all depends on our passing and our ability to get the ball set to our middles. Once the middles are established, the other hitters can find more openings and opportunities."
Brebeuf coach Brian Murray did not respond to inquiries this week.
Krull feels that Brebeuf will look for White in the middle or Obeime on the outside. "White in the middle runs a lot of slides and quick sets off of one foot, while Obeime just jumps high and hits hard cross-court shots," explained the coach.
With both sides packing the offensive punch necessary to compete, the coach feels that it will come down to the other aspects of the game. "We need to control the surroundings. I think our aggressive serving, blocking, and defense will be key. We cannot let them get a run of unanswered points. Every team can play with a ton of emotion. We need to keep their intensity low and try to get them to play out of their comfort zone," he noted.
"We know that both teams are going to get their kills, but in our case we need to block some balls to get their hitters thinking on their next shots. Ball control will be key since both teams score with the middle hitters. Without good passes the middles are usually not the dominant factors," said Krull.
After easing through a mediocre sectional, the Squaws came together against Western in the regional last week with a convincing sweep, then swept one of NorthWood's best teams ever in the first round of semistate.
"This is what they wanted all year long. I am so proud of the way these kids have played. Only two of our players have gone this long in the postseason, and it was nice to see that even though the others were inexperienced we played like we belonged," said Krull of the semistate run.
"You can say that Brebeuf has the advantage of playing at Ball State last year, but it comes down to the volleyball court and who can handle the pressure of the biggest match of the year."
The coach feels that Brebeuf might feel "more pressure coming in as No. 1. We should have less pressure on us and just play loose. We only put pressure on ourselves with the desire to be the best.
"We are a very good team, but we want to be the best. Alex and Chelsea have done a great job of leading the team, they had great leaders when they were freshmen headed to State in 2007. I believe that experience is rubbing off on them," offered Krull.