Union faces Oldenburg Academy in regional
Union (Dugger), despite having the best record (34-0) and highest ranking (No. 3) all of the teams at the Class A Morristown volleyball regional, have the least amount of postseason experience of the four teams vying for a spot in the state finals.
At 11 a.m. Saturday, the Lady Bulldogs, who won the school's first sectional championship last week at Bloomfield, will open against No. 9 Oldenburg Academy (29-4), who is making its second consecutive appearance in the regional, to be followed by defending regional champion and fifth-ranked Morristown (29-6) against North Vermillion (25-1).
"The one thing that concerns me a little is that Oldenburg has experience in the regional. They have gone there before," said Union (Dugger) coach Tammy Meurer. "But the girls have played with confidence all season.
"Even though the experience factor may be a concern, that doesn't mean anything if we go out and play with confidence. I think that will balance out experience. If we play up to our ability and with confidence, we will be OK."
The Twisters, who like Union did not lose a game in the sectional, beat South Decatur, Hauser and Rising Run to claim the school's sixth sectional championship.
Coach Jody Thomas, like Union, has a veteran team. Of the five seniors on the Oldenburg roster, four have played since their freshmen season.
The Twisters have a balanced offensive attack. Cassie Laker, a 5-11 senior leads Oldenburg with 265 kills on 667 attempts. Another senior Tabitha Luers, is next with 157 kills on 611 attempts.
Senior Nicole Enneking is third with 149 kills in 582 hitting attempts.
Freshman Kathryn Ahaus (66), 5-8 senior Abby Alford (56), 5-10 senior Mary Lampling (45) have combined for 167 kills in over 600 attempts.
"They have a real tough outside hitter, but they mainly go to their middles," said Meurer. "I am told their strength is in their unpredictability.
"You don't know where their sets are going to go. That is the strength of their program."
Union will counter up front with the senior trio of Emeral Holladay, Nikki Frye and Alina Secrest. The 6-3 Holladay lead with 454 kills and 124 blocks. The 6-0 Frye had 230 kills, 48 blocks, 285 service points and 73 aces. Secrest has 143 kills and 188 digs. The trio combined to average more than 26 kills per match as Union defeated Clay City, Bloomfield and White River Valley to win the Bloomfield Sectional.
"We have bigger numbers," said Meurer. "Emeral has 200 more kills than their top girl.
"Nikki is right there with their first girl."
Laker leads with 180 blocks, including 140 solo. Alford had 55 blocks, 22 solo and Ahaus has tallied 73 blocks, including 29 assist blocks.
"I am sure they have a lot of girls that can pick up kills," said Meurer. "We have got to be versatile and ready to move on defense."
Setter Jenna Laxton, one of the Lady Bulldogs leaders in aces, runs the offense. She averaged 26 assists per match in the regional while serving at 96 percent.
Freshman Stacey Secrest has filled in admirably for the injured Kallie Cox (knee injury), serving in the No. 6 position. She made 15 of 16 attempts in the sectional while averaging over four kills per match.
Senior defensive specialist Lyndsey Reed and senior Tiffany Ferree, who has combined with Secrest to make up for the absence of Cox, round out the Union top seven.
"Other than one spurt against Bloomfield, I thought we played very well at the sectional," said Meurer. "But the girls know that they will have to step it up even more on Saturday, which I fully expect them too."
Serving has been an asset for Union all season. As a team, they were 181 of 188 during the sectional, good for 96.3 percent. Frye (59 of 59) and Holladay (26 of 26) both have been perfect in the postseason while Laxton (96 percent) Stacey Secrest (94 percent), Alina Secrest (93 percent) served over 90 percent at the sectional.
Whitney Luers, a 5-5 defensive specialist, serves 93.4 percent to pace Oldenburg. Enneking is next at 93.3 with 40 aces. Laker has made 92.4 percent of her serves, including 47 aces. Junior outside hitter Kristen Johnson has 26 aces.
Enneking leads OA with 445 digs. Tabitha Luers has 340 digs, Whitney Luers 272, Laker 244, Alford 207 and Johnson 186.
Alford runs the Oldenburg 5-1 offense, dishing out 582 assists.
"They have five seniors too," said Meurer. "They also have a lot of experience.
"I am sure they are not satisfied with just getting to the regional, just like us. Last year they were beat in the first round and I know they will be ready to go. This is a loaded regional, but we won't have to beat everyone."
Morristown (29-6) vs. North Vermillion (25-1) ---- Morristown has the most experience of any of the four teams. This will be the host Yellow Jackets sixth consecutive regional appearance and seventh overall. Rita Rouse's team finally won its first regional in 2001, qualifying for the Class A state finals.
Junior Emily Prifogle runs the show ---- dishing out 659 assists. She also had made 98.3 percent of her serves. She has added 186 digs and 56 kills.
Sophomore Erin Nigh tops the Yellow Jackets with 321 kills and 255 solo blocks. She also has contributed 182 digs while serving almost 97 percent.
Megan Stout, a 5-7 sophomore, has 175 kills, 214 digs and serves at 97.1 percent. Senior Jennifer Shoultz had 278 digs, 51 aces (95.1 percent server) and 43 kills. Sophomore Trista Wood paces the team with 65 aces while making 94 percent of her service attempts. She also has been credited with 274 digs and 33 assists.
Stefanie Keffaber has made 91 percent of her serves, including 24 aces.
Morristown defeated Indianapolis Lutheran and Southwest (Shelbyville) to win its own sectional.
North Vermillion has already broken the school record for wins, eclipsing the mark of 24 set by the 1998 team.
NV will be appearing in its ninth regional, but first since 1997, when it was ousted by Bloomfield.
Kayla Hinkle had 12 kills and four blocks as North Vermillion beat host Riverton Parke in the sectional championship match.
North Vermillion, who is coached by Debra Chew, also beat Attica and Rockville in the sectional.
Rachel West had 14 assists and 14 digs in the title match while Megan Konen has 12 assists and 14 digs. Allison Hughes added nine kills and 14 digs against Riverton Parke.
"This is a loaded regional, but we won't have to beat everyone. Somebody will be eliminated," said Meurer. "We will have the advantage of being able to watch the second match and use that as a scouting tool.
"It is a very, very strong regional. Some say we might be the favorite because we are undefeated and ranked third. But Morristown is the defending champion and playing at home. The rankings are nice for the girls and the program, but it won't mean a thing Saturday. You have to go out and perform."
Meurer said their mental maturity has been the difference this season. "The girls are so mature and so confident," she said. "We just have to go out and take care of our side of the net and make adjustments."