Times Sports Editor
The Clay City Eels head into postseason volleyball play on Thursday night with one of the most dynamic weapons on its roster in senior middle hitter, Lynsey Higgins.
Through the 5'10 Higgins might not elicit a lot of fear as some six-foot or larger hitters might when coming to the net. However, Higgins is one of the top athletes at Clay City, which has helped her produce at a very high rate according to coach Lu Anne Anderson.
"She's one of the more athletic girls I've had the opportunity to coach," Anderson said. "You wouldn't think that she could jump that high at her height, but she's got a pretty high spike reach and block reach, which is good for her because sometimes opponents underestimate how big a middle she can be."
Higgins' season stats bear that out as she has been one of the top offensive threats in the area and in the state.
Higgins has rang up 318 kills this season, which ranks 11th in the state in Class A. She's also averaging 3.74 kills per game, which is ninth in the state.
"She can make a big impact in the middle," Anderson said. "Even if the set isn't exactly where she wants it, she's long enough that she can get it where she wants it."
Despite being somewhat undersized compared to a lot of middle hitters, Higgins has also rang up 62 blocks this season, which is 20th in Class A.
Though her physical ability on the court has proved invaluable to the Eels, Anderson felt that Higgins' leadership is even more important to Clay City's success.
"She's definitely been a leader for us on offense kill-wise and on defense," Anderson said of Higgins. "She does a tremendous job at the net on blocking and digs well from the back row. She's just an all-around leader. Our girls look to her when we're down. She's answered a lot of calls this year and has really moved her game up to another level.
"I think she's taken the leadership reigns more this year than last year," Anderson continued. "(The team) relied a lot on Kelly McCullough last year in her senior year and Lynsey has filled that role quite well."
Higgins isn't one-dimensional as Anderson brought up as she has also compiled 142 digs, which is third on the team and she's also served up 41 aces (second on the team) and has the third-highest total of service points with 150.
This season, Higgins has gone over 20 kills in a match five times and has double-digit kills in 15 matches. She's also had double-figures in digs five times including an 18-kill, 13-dig, eight block match against Shakamak during the regular season. The Lakers just happen to be Clay City's first round sectional opponent
While Higgins has displayed her talents during the high school volleyball season, Anderson pointed to Higgins' hectic travel club schedule during the winter as a big reason for her prep success.
"Anytime you can play something all year round like the girls in club ball do, it's always beneficial," Anderson said.
Higgins is one of several Eels, who play club volleyball and as a member of the Crossroads of America team in Terre Haute, she played with athletes from Northview, Terre Haute North and South, Vincennes Lincoln, West Vigo and Sullivan last season.
"I think (playing club volleyball) has helped her a lot, playing against strong competition. When you're a middle hitter and you go up against 6'1 or 6'2 girls, it's quite different than what we go up against here (at Clay City)," Anderson said. "So I think that's challenged her a bit and she's been able to grow from it."
Higgins and her Clay City teammates take on Shakamak at 7 p.m. at the White River Valley Sectional on Thursday evening.