Times Sports Editor
LOOGOOTEE --The magical run by the Clay City volleyball team was halted in the opening round of the Loogootee Semi-state by a powerful Trinity Lutheran squad in a three-game match, 25-8, 25-19, 25-13.
The Cougars advanced to the championship match where they dispatched the host Lions by a 26-24, 18-25, 25-23, 25-22 squad. Trinity Lutheran will take on Wes-Del in the Class A state title match at Ball State's Worthen Arena on Saturday.
Clay City faced a tough task of trying to overcome a Cougars' squad that had a pair of six-foot middle hitters that had athleticism to match their height. The duo of Sarah Stuckwisch and Emma Franke was joined by freshman Mallory Barker in giving the Eels plenty of problems right off the opening serve
Clay City's Asie Jeffers got the Eels started on the right track with a kill, but Stuckwisch announced her presence on the next point with a powerful attack.
The Eels hung tough during the early stages of game one with a pair of kills by senior Brielle Drelick, but then it was Trinity Lutheran's impressive service game that wreaked havoc with six aces in game one alone.
"We knew coming in that they were a very good serving team and that their serves went right over the net and dropped. We had prepared for that in practice, but obviously we hadn't prepared enough for those looks," Clay City coach Lu Anne Anderson said.
"Give Trinity Lutheran credit, that's a pretty good volleyball club," Anne Anderson said. "We came out a little scared and timid in game one, which you could tell by our play."
Stuckwisch opened the second game with another kill followed by one from Kyra Klosterman. Chloe Kittle followed with a kill by the Eels, but an attack by Franke gave the Cougars a 4-3 lead early in the second game.
Jeffers would provide back-to-back service aces for Clay City to get the Eels within 7-6 before a kill by Halli Brewer.
Trailing just 9-7, Clay City looked to have regained their footing. The Eels remained close midway through the set as senior Meeghan Riggs provided a kill, but the second portion of the game saw the Cougars get back to what got them there.
A kill by senior Sarah Onken followed a block by Stuckwisch as Trinity pushed its lead to 22-15 on a 4-1 run. Riggs halted the run with an ace for the Eels, but the Cougars got a late block by Stuckwisch and an errant serve by Clay City gave Trinity a two-game lead.
"I thought maybe we'd come out and ease into game two and play a little better. I know the girls are a little disappointed in how they played, but you've got to realize, we've never played a team like Trinity Lutheran," Anderson said. "I don't think anyone on our schedule compares to them, not even the bigger schools that we play.
They had two outstanding middle hitters. We'd take care of one lane and then they'd go the other way. So we'd still be out of position. They played at a lot faster speed than we did. We just had way too many errors to compete with a team like that," Anderson added.
The Cougars started game three strong as well with a pair of aces and a block by Hannah Barker for an 8-2 lead. The Eels rallied on a kill by Drelick, who had a team-high 10 in the match, and a block. However, Franke added another ace and a pair of hitting errors by Clay City pushed Trinity's lead to 13-6.
For the Eels, Riggs had six digs and a kill, Drelick added a dig to go with her attacks and Jeffers provided a dig and two blocks. Freshman Emmie Kittle had 12 assists, Chloe Kittle had three digs, two assists and a kill and Callie Dayhuff had three digs.
"Give our girls credit, they had a great season. This is the first time they've ever been here," Anderson said. "It's the first time they've every experienced it. I'm proud of what our team has accomplished this year."
Anderson also credited the Eels strong fan support this season.
We had a great fan base here today and even though we got put away in game one, they were still loud throughout the whole match. The girls really appreciate that. I'm sure going to miss our seniors next year. Brielle Drelick, Meeghan Riggs and Asie Jeffers mean a lot to this team and they'll be hard to replace. All three of those girls practice hard, work hard and are leaders. It's going to be interesting to see who steps up for those girls next year."
Class A Loogootee Semi-state
Next match: Clay City ends the season at 19-11. Trinity Lutheran (32-5) advances to face Wes-Del (31-7) in the state championship match on Saturday at Ball State.