Braves, Cougars battle in scrimmage


By Dylan Trimpe

Last season, the Brownstown Central Braves and Trinity Lutheran Cougars were the cream of the crop among Jackson County volleyball teams.

The Braves rattled off an impressive 29-6 record, including a perfect 9-0 in the Mid-Southern Conference, and were ranked as high as 27th in the state, according to Trinity, too, had a great year with a 28-10 record and a trip to the regional final.

On Thursday night, the Jackson County rivals battled it out in a scrimmage in Trinity’s gym. It’s the first of two potential meetings with the other possibly coming during the Brownstown Central Invitational on Aug. 31.

In last season’s lone meeting, the Braves swept the Cougars 3-0 in Brownstown.

After the controlled aspects of the scrimmage, the teams finally got to play two sets of actual volleyball that they split 1-1. The Cougars took Set 1 25-17, and the Braves returned the favor in Set 2 25-20.

Braves coach Jennifer Shade has a strong group of returners from last year’s team eager to win more than just a league crown this year.

“I feel like our volleyball ability is there,” Shade said. “We’ve got what it takes to be a really great team. Where we’ve got a lot of work to do is on the mental aspect of it, and that’s going to be our focus these next few practices.”

Brownstown Central volleyball last won a sectional in 2013, according to the IHSAA’s record books. They fell in the sectional title game last season to a Silver Creek team that made it all the way to the Class 3A south semistate game against Northview.

All four of the Braves’ top attackers are back in Keeli Darlage (376 kills), Kendra McCory (276 kills), Addie Wilkerson (233 kills) and Kayla Guthrie (166 kills).

For Trinity, there are no conference titles to worry about. Their lone goal is to excel in the postseason.

They’ve had a great string of success since 2010, winning eight of a possible nine sectional titles as well as three regional titles in 2010 through 2012.

The Cougars have not gotten past the semistate hump since 2011, however, and they hope this is their year to take the next step.

But first, they need to take all the little steps from the first game onward.

“You can’t win a state title until you win your first game,” Trinity Lutheran coach Faith Wilder-Newland said. “We try to keep focus on getting better every day in practice, and there is always something that could use improvement. That’s the biggest thing, just taking it one step at a time.”

They’ll need to replace some offense, but they return their top attacker in Hannah Sabotin (410 kills). They also bring back Sydney Jaynes (187 kills) and Kennedy Hoffman (98 kills) to what might be the tallest front line in Class A.

Brownstown Central gets their year started on Tuesday against Mid-Southern Conference rival Eastern (Pekin) at home at 6:30 p.m. The Cougars will travel to Henryville on Monday night before returning home on Tuesday to face Class 4A power Providence. Both games are set for a 6 p.m. start.

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