Owls battle but fall in sectional semifinal to New Albany



Coach Angie Lucas said she felt like her Seymour volleyball team gave New Albany a good battle in a Hoosier Hills Conference match Sept. 26, and she was expecting more of the same Saturday in the sectional semifinal. 

That was exactly the kind of effort the Owls gave Saturday, falling 25-18, 25-17 in the first two sets before rallying to win 25-23, 26-24 in the next two sets to force a fifth set.

The final set was knotted up six times, the last at 11-11, before the Bulldogs pulled out a 15-13 win.

“That was a very competitive match,” Lucas said. “We knew it would be. We improved greatly over the last two weeks. We worked really hard today, we just fell short at the very end.”

The Bulldogs held leads of 4-1 and 6-3 in the fifth set before the Owls rallied for a 7-7 tie on an ace from Jayla Gambrel.

The Owls’ final lead was 10-9 on a kill by Sophia Stahl. New Albany led 14-12 before Maggie Connell had a kill for Seymour’s final point.

“I told them in that fifth set that we had to serve aggressively, that we had to make everything we do as aggressive as we possibly can," Lucas said. "New Albany started playing scared. They started playing timid. They were being safe. We made mistakes but they were aggressive mistakes so we can live with that. That’s what we build on.”

The Owls (17-17) trailed early in the first set before taking an 8-7 lead. New Albany went on a 6-1 run to lead 13-8 and the closest the Owls could get after that was 16-13 on a net serve by the Bulldogs.

Hayley Harpe served the Owls into a 3-0 lead in the second set. The Owls final lead was 9-8 before the Bulldogs opened a 15-11 cushion. A kill by Cali Cummings left the Owls trailing 18-16 before the Bulldogs closed on a 7-1 run.

Lucas said her team made changes in the way it was blocking at the start of the third set and the Owls turned the match around.

“We changed our blocking scheme a little bit, and that seemed to help us a lot," she said. "Defense is something we need to continue to work on. We moved our blockers but the back-row defense didn’t adjust. They’ve got to learn to read and make those adjustments as quickly as they can."

A kill by Cummings pulled the Owls even at 4-4 in the third set. A kill and block by Lauren Knieriem put the Owls on top 11-7, and later in the set, Criswell had a kill, Stahl a block and Chloe Mellencamp an ace to give the Owls their biggest lead at 18-12.

Connell had a kill for set point.

The fourth set was tied six times, the final time at 24-24 when Cummings came up with a kill to pull the Owls even. Seymour held a 14-9 led, and later was on top 16-12 on a kill by Connell, before the Bulldogs rallied to take a 20-18 lead.

Stahl, who had three aces for the day, served two on the 25th and 26th points to give the Owls the win and set the match to the fifth set.

The Owls were 88-99-11 in serves with Harpe 21-21-4, Gambrel 14-14-1 and Stahl 15-17-3. Harpe had 44 assists, while Stahl topped the team in digs with 22 and Gambrel had 16.

Seymour had 36 attack kills with Criswell 36-40-10, Knieriem 42-53-11 and Connell 23-31-8 for the day.

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