Times Sports Editor
The Northview Knights head into the volleyball postseason as the defending sectional champion and have the fortune to host the sectional this year as play gets underway tonight at 6 p.m. with Martinsville taking on Plainfield followed by the Knights taking on Mooresville.
The Knights' date with the Pioneers is a re-match of the opening contest of the season for Northview, a 25-15, 23-25, 25-14, 25-20 victory over Mooresville. For one of the teams it will also be the last match of the year.
Northview coach Scott McDonald has had the opportunity to watch the Pioneers play over time and has the Knights prepared to win the postseason rematch.
"We have spent a lot of time working on our serving trying to put Mooresville in out of system balls. I have scouted them and was able to see a lot of things that we must try to exploit," McDonald said. "We have also put in several different offensive sets that we hope can confuse their defense. The home court advantage is going to have to be huge for us. We really feed off the energy of the crowd and are very comfortable in our gym. We have played very well at home, so hopefully we can translate that into a good run."
The Knights have gone through a number of changes since the season began as senior setter Hannah Hayes was lost for the year early on after a knee injury and the starting line-up has evolved as coach Scott McDonald has looked for the right combinations.
Many of the same stalwarts from last year's title team have been key contributors this year as junior libero Ashlen Buck had 29 digs against the Pioneers and Kaylee Clark added 12 kills and 14 digs in the match. Brylie Riddell posted a team-high, 17 kills in the match and Elizabeth Emmert had six kills.
Riddell has led the team with 308 kills, but she is far from the only option on offense as Clark had 216 kills and freshman Shelbi Morris added 139 successful attacks. Emmert has provided a balance to the Knights' attack with 137 kills, 325 assists and 104 digs. Buck is third in the state with 575 digs and Clark has 318 for the season. Briana Cook has taken over a setter's role and has thrived with 429 assists and 153 digs and Alexus Bex has come on over the final several weeks of the year to add 42 kills and 83 digs.
Though the Knights won the sectional last year, Northview had to scratch and claw their way to the hardware, coming from behind to win all three matches in five games. This year, Northview has lost to North and South Vigo as well as Plainfield, but hopes to reverse its fortunes in postseason play. McDonald commented on the difficult task at hand for the Knights in a talented sectional that features a 24-8 Braves' team and a 23-5 Patriots team.
"The sectional that we are in prevents a lot of challenges for us. The other teams that we play are much bigger than we are, which presents us problems in our block," McDonald said. "We have talked about how difficult it was to win it last year, but this year is even tougher. North and South are both playing very well, Plainfield is a good team, and we don't get to play Martinsville, so we have to play very well and have to avoid giving up four or more point runs.
"For us to be successful in the sectional, we have to be able to play more consistent with our serve-receive," McDonald added. "The defense that we are capable of playing can help us, we just have to get opportunities for us to take swings."
Sectional play begins tonight at Northview High School with a 6 p.m. contest