Times Sports Editor
INDIANAPOLIS -- The Clay City volleyball team wasn't quite able to match the magic Tuesday night that last year's team enjoyed on the way to a regional championship.
The Indiana School for the Deaf (ISD), boasting one more year of experience and the benefit of playing on its home court, pulled out a 25-19, 18-25, 25-12, 21-25, 15-13 victory to advance to Saturday's Loogootee Semistate.
In front of a load and boisterous crowd from both schools, ISD came out strong, trying to erase the memories of a regional loss to Clay City on the Eels' home court.
Senior hitter Jasmine Jeter posted a pair of kills around an ace by Victoria Tingler to put the Orioles out front 12-8 and the Eels committed too many hitting errors in dropping the first game by a 25-19 score. The opening game win just fueled the home crowd's frenzy, which Clay City coach Vance Edmondson noted.
"It was loud in here and we knew coming in that it was going to be crazy," Edmondson said. "They were loud last year when they came to our place. I thought we brought a really good crowd. It probably makes it seem even louder in a small gym. I was a great atmosphere tonight."
Despite dropping the opening set, the Eels got their feet under them and played much better in the second game.
Leading by a narrow 12-10 score, Chloe Kittle nailed two of her 10 kills in the match to put the Eels ahead 16-11. A hitting error by the Orioles would increase the lead to 19-13 and the Eels wouldn't look back. A kill by Dayhuff and a block by Halli Brewer opened the gap and Mackenzee McKittrick hammered down the final point to even the match at one-game apiece.
The Orioles got a tip and two kills from JamiLee Hoglind and a block by Giuletta Maucere. Two of the Eels eight hitting errors in the game allowed ISD to take a 7-4 advantage and Clay City wouldn't recover.
"That third (set) was tough for us. We didn't play well and they got up on us early and kept the pressure on us," Edmondson said. "We just couldn't seem to get over the hump."
Clay City would close to within 12-9, but the Orioles scored 13 of the next 16 points to win the third set.
The fourth set proved to be a thriller with Clay City's backs against the wall.
The Eels opened a 13-10 lead midway through the set, but IDS rallied back to tie the score at 15-all after an Eels' hitting error.
With Meghan Skaggs serving, the sophomore served up an ace and McKittrick had a block to give the Eels a lead at 18-15. However, the Orioles came back to get within 20-19 after a kill by Maucere, who would then serve up an ace the following point as the Orioles tied that game at 20-all. On the next point, the two teams traded great defensive plays in a long rally before Dayhuff nailed down a kill to put the Eels ahead.
Clay City would eventually tie the match as Brewer added one of her 10 kills to go with six blocks and Dayhuff clinched the set with a service ace.
The Eels appeared as if they would ride that momentum to a victory, jumping out to a 7-3 lead, but IDS scored the next four points to tie the deciding set at seven-all to force an Eels' timeout.
Following the loss, Edmondson found plenty of positives as the Eels concluded the season.
"You've got to give credit to them. They did a lot of nice things tonight. We obviously didn't play one of our better games tonight," Edmondson said. "It's just a bad night not to play well. I'm proud of the girls, they battled, even though they didn't play their best, to the end. They have nothing to hang their heads about."
The Eels got 32 assists from Emmie Kittle and 24 digs from Dayhuff with Emmie Kittle adding 19 digs. Claire Miller had 12 for the Eels with Brewer posting seven along with Alyssa Yocom. Skaggs added two in the match.