Elly Carter says when Trinity Lutheran’s volleyball team takes the floor in the Loogootee Regional on Saturday, the Cougars can’t afford to look past anybody.
“We’ve got to be ready,” Carter said about facing 23-9 Rock Creek Academy at noon. “We can’t overlook a team just because we’ve beat them. We’ve got to be ready to play.”
After Loogootee (28-5) battles Springs Valley (23-3) at 10 a.m., Trinity (28-5) will open defense of its regional crown.
The winners will return at 7 p.m. for the championship and the right to advance to semistate at either Jennings County or Jasper Oct. 31.
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Carter, who began her volleyball career in fifth grade at Immanuel Lutheran School, said receiving the sectional trophy last Saturday was expected.
"It was nice, though," she said. "It’s always exciting to win sectional."
Carter has been a member of four straight sectional winning teams.
She feels Rock Creek’s strength is hitting and said she needs to be in the right position to get a dig.
“I try to stay outside of the block," she said.
The Cougars and the Lions played on the Rock Creek court Oct. 6 with Trinity winning 25-19, 25-16, 25-19.
Kennedy Hoffman leads the Cougars in kills with 372, and Sydney Jaynes is the leader in blocks with 59. Ligna Williams tops the Lions in kills (389) and blocks (74).
Kamzi Gross leads Trinity in ace serves with 71 and in digs with 458, and Bailey Reynolds leads in assists with 869. Leah Thompson leads Rock Creek in aces (52), assists (430) and digs (225).
Hoffman said blocking will be a key for the Cougars, and she has the utmost respect for Williams.
“She has a really nice vertical. She gets up there. When they get the ball to her, she can really put it down," Hoffman said.
“The key for blocking is watching the hitters’ approach, watching the hitters’ shoulder," she said. "You’ve got to find the ball. You’ve got to find the setter. It’s just finding their approach and being ready to move and adapt to the stuff they’re getting to.”
Working closely up front is important, Hoffman said.
“I double-block with Sydney once (one rotation), and I double-block with Bailey Tabeling twice (two rotations),” Hoffman said. “The block starts with our whole defense so they have to react with what we’re putting up. That makes it tougher on them. We just have to communicate, get to where we’re supposed to be, do what we’re supposed to early and just get up and be big.”
Hoffman also has been a part of four sectional champion teams. She said Saturday night was like a full circle moment.
"Winning sectional is so fun, and to be able to do it with this team, I’m so proud of what we’ve done our four years,” she said.
Coach Faith Wilder-Newland talked about the importance of setting and serving aggressively for her team.
The Cougars had 13 aces to four for the Lions in the earlier match, and Carter led Trinity with four aces.
“One of the things we need to do is keep their sets off the net,” Wilder-Newland said. “If we set too tight, it’s hard to hit around (Williams). We want to keep them off so we have more choices of hitting line or angle, hitting around her block.
“The other thing is to keep setting the sidelines, the pins where the outside hitters can hit, again, around (Williams) by hitting over the outsides rather than hitting into the middle blockers," she said. “I think we handle the ball a little bit better, so we just have to stay aggressive serving and handle our serve receive to give our setter a chance to make good sets. Serving tough will take them out of what they want to do.”
The coach said it will take teamwork to win, too.
“We’ve got to spread the ball and be able to set different people," she said. "We can’t just set it up in the middle because that’s where (Williams) blocks the most balls. We have to keep moving the ball around and make her and her teammates move.”
Wilder-Newland said she wants the Cougars to get off to a good start by winning the first set.
“Mentally, it’s a big advantage because if you don’t, you feel like you have to keep coming from behind, so we’ve got to come out strong regardless," she said. "We’ve got to relax and play our game and stay in control.”
Trinity finished runner-up in the state in Class A last fall. Carter said the Cougars’ goal is to win state.
“It will take teamwork, playing together and being ready," she said. "I think we can do it, but we’ve just got to play together. I think those big, hard, tough games that were close got us ready for state.”