Times Sports Editor
The Clay City Eels came calling in the annual Clay County volleyball battle with Northview on Monday night and both squads came together with outstanding fan support to race money for a great cause.
Monday was Breast Cancer Awareness Night at Northview High School and both schools sold t-shirts with all proceeds going to the Susan B. Koman Foundation, which supports finding a cure.
Packed stands and a large student turnout made the evening a festive atmosphere, which Northview coach Scott McDonald said was something to be excited about.
"It was a great crowd and we raised a lot of money for (the Susan B. Koman Foundation), which is always good. It gives our kids a chance to give back to the community and especially with Clay City it keeps the money here in Clay County," McDonald said. "So it was a special night. We've all had somebody touched by breast cancer so anytime we can do something for that it's a special night."
"I think (Clay City) has weapons, we just served the ball better tonight and kept them out of system," McDonald said. "My biggest concern was the (Lynsey) Higgins girl and if we would be able to handle her because I think she's a really good player and (Kelly) McCullough is a good player, a good setter."
The Eels opened with a service ace from McCullough and a tip by Higgins gave the Eels an early 2-1 advantage, but the Knights went on the attack with kills from Brittaney Long and Hannah Hayes to take a lead they wouldn't relinquish in game one.
The match was close early, tied at 8-all before Kaylee Clark scored one of her six kills in the match to put Northview up 9-8. McCullough later struck for a kill to keep the match tight, but a kill by freshman Brylie Riddell and back-to-back aces from Clark pushed the lead to 18-10. From there, Ali Sharton served up an ace sandwiched between successful attacks by Long and Riddell.
Clay City got a kill from Higgins, who then served out an ace, but Riddell had one of her four aces and Alyssa Clarke blocked an Eels shot for the game-winner.
In the second game, Sharton had two early aces and both Long and Samantha Solomon had kills to get the ball rolling for the Knights. McDonald mentioned Sharton's success at the service line as a spark for the Knights.
"She's got a good float serve and it's hard to handle. It's like hitting a butterfly with an unstrung racket," McDonald joked. "She doesn't make a lot of errors, she made a couple tonight, but that's the only thing I didn't like was we made some service mistakes."
Brielle Drelick and Callie Dayhuff had two early kills as Clay City crept back within 12-7, but a kill by Clark and one from Lizzie Emmert pushed the gap back to 17-10. Long added two late and Solomon had a block at the net before Clarke put a shot away at the net to cap the game two win for Northview.
The Knights got within match point on a kill by Solomon before a service mistake by Hannah Hayes, a kill from McCullough and a hitting error by Clark got the Eels back to 24-19, but Clarke finished the match with a kill.
McDonald credited his team's passing as a key to Northview's 13th win in 16 matches.
"When you have Ashlen (Buck) back there it's a real luxury. She and Kaylee (Clark) are just phenomenal passers," McDonald said. "They are two of the best high school passers I've seen in a long time and I've been watching high school volleyball for 20 years."
Long had eight kills to top the Knights as Clarke had six with three blocks and Clark had six along with three aces and eight digs. Sharton had 18 assists, Hayes added 10 with two kills and Buck had eight digs.
McDonald was also impressed with the student support that the game received.
"I'll tell you, that was the best student section I've seen at a volleyball game," McDonald said. "They were on those girls from the moment they walked into the gym until the time they left. It was a lot of fun and a great atmosphere all night and it gets us ready for (tonight against Terre Haute South)."
In the JV match, Northview won 25-19, 25-22.
McDonald also saw a talented Eels' squad that he felt will make some waves later in the season.
"They are going to be a tough out in their sectional," McDonald said. "I think they've got a real good shot to win it if they get their passing down a little bit better. We were lucky to come out of here with a win."
Next match: Northview hosts Terre Haute South tonight in a freshman, JV and varsity match beginning at 5 p.m. The Eels face a tough Rockville squad tonight at 6 p.m.