The Knights (28-5) get another crack at a Martinsville (27-4) squad that knocked them from the sectional last year in the semifinal. The Artesians could be considered one of the favorites boasting wins over Plainfield, Mooresville and Terre Haute South already this season. Martinsville comes in as the defending sectional champion and brings in a sizable, junior-laden roster. The 2014 class includes its top two hitters in Gabby Fisher (310 kills) and Alyx Shields (295) along with setter Makayla Ferguson (829 assists).
Northview coach Scott McDonald took note of the Artesians' offense and how well Martinsville disrupts other teams with its passing.
"They have an excellent setter that moves the ball around and three big hitters," McDonald said. "They serve very well and can put teams out of system and force free balls and then they get into their offense."
Another facet that Martinsville brings to the table is an excellent service game with five players boasting more than 30 aces this season led by senior Teylor Rains, who has 55.
"First and foremost, we have to have a great serve receive," McDonald said. "We need to put our hitters in spots to where we can put pressure on their defense. We also need to limit the number of kills from their setter."
While Ferguson has excelled in passing for her team, she also is one of five players with more than 100 kills this season.
The Knights have played a solid schedule this season in preparation for postseason play. Northview has faced highly ranked Eastern Greene and Barr-Reeve squads in tournament play and saw a Chesterton squad recently that has similar size to Martinsville.
"This team has been pretty resilient against a good schedule. We have seen a lot of big hitting teams and played well," McDonald said. "We definitely have grown in our maturity on the court and being able to handle adversity. We think that the mental toughness that we have shown has been the biggest difference."
Brylie Riddell (332 kills) and Shelbi Morris (317) kills have topped the team's productive attack as McKenzi Kumpf has produced 299 kills with freshman Morgan Stearley adding 116 this season. The Knights' blocking has also helped the defense as Riddell (81) and sophomore Mikayla Rowan (66) lead the team. Junior libero Audrey Clark leads the Knights in digs with 222 with freshmen Ashley Heck producing 130 and Madison McDonald tallying 116. The Knights also boast very solid passing between sophomore Taylor Hess (406 assists) and McDonald, who has 508. Seniors Hannah Willocks (97 digs) and Alexus Bex (40 assists, 35 kills) provide valuable leadership along with Riddell.
"Thursday night will be a great display for us and how mentally tough we are," McDonald said. "These kids have no fear of anyone and we are going to take it right to them and put ourselves in a position to start a great tournament run."
In the second match of this evening, Terre Haute North takes on Terre Haute South with the winner taking on the winner between the Knights and Artesians on Saturday at 11 a.m. Mooresville takes on Plainfield in the following match with the championship slated for 7 p.m.
The Clay City Eels have the spotlight this evening as the host and the defending champion taking on visiting Eminence at 7 p.m. The winner will face Union (Dugger) in Saturday's 12:30 p.m. match that follows Shakamak vs. White River Valley at 11 a.m.
The Eels reached rarified air last year, becoming the first volleyball team in school history to claim a regional championship, which also came on Clay City's home court.