Oct. 24—Linton's Miners got halfway to their third and final high school volleyball goal Saturday at the Class 2A Mitchell Regional.
But after holding off a spirited comeback by South Ripley 3-1 in the semifinals, the Miners never found the solution to a solid North Posey team in the championship match and lost 25-13, 27-25, 25-9.
North Posey had swept the host team 25-14, 25-15, 25-20 in Saturday's first match, before Linton won 25-17, 25-22, 17-25, 25-23.
The championship match Saturday hadn't gone on long before it became obvious that the Vikings were going to be trouble. Attacks that were often sure things for the Miners were coming back at them, and not always gently.
"Volleyball is a game of momentum," Linton coach Scott Vanderkolk said afterward. "[The Vikings] got momentum on their side and took off running.
"They have five hitters that can go at any point," he continued, "and they put up a good block . . . just too much firepower."
North Posey opened its first daylight with a 7-1 run for a 13-6 advantage in the first set. Linton got the next four points to fire up its fans, only to be outscored 12-2 down the stretch.
The second set found the Miners quickly in an 8-3 hole, and North Posey had other five-point leads at 14-9 and 18-13. But here the Miners showed their mettle.
They cut the lead to 19-17, only to have North Posey score the next two points. They got within 21-20, only to have North Posey score the next three points. But in that 24-20 hole, Linton fought off five set points — two kills and a block by Gentry Warrick, two assists and a kill by Audrey Warrick that tied the set at 24, a tip by Gentry Warrick for a 25-25 score — before the Vikings scored the last two.
But losing that set apparently took the starch out of the sails, as the final set was never close.
"I told them this doesn't define the success of our season," Vanderkolk said after a long postgame talk with his players. "We accomplished two of our three goals [conference and sectional championships the other two], but [a regional championship] is the hump we've not been able to get over at this point."
Gentry Warrick finishes her high school career as an all-time great, certainly an all-stater. Jaylee Hayes, arguably her team's best player in the final game thanks to a superlative effort, will also graduate, and so will Madison Hazlewood and Lillie Oliver.
"You hate to see these seniors go," Vanderkolk said. "All four gave us everything they could . . . I couldn't have asked for more."
Earlier . . .
Even by high school volleyball standards, Saturday's second semifinal match was a little strange.
Linton dominated the first set and held off a South Ripley comeback in the second. When an officiating snafu at the start of the third set took two South Ripley points off the scoreboard and gave one to the Miners — and when the Miners took leads of 10-5, 12-6 and 13-7 helped by a big service run by Hayes — it appeared a sweep was in the cards.
No deal. The Raiders, angry after the points controversy, got five straight points to get within 13-12 and then, after Linton led 15-13, closed out the set with a 12-2 run. South Ripley jumped out to a 17-10 lead in the fourth set, meaning the Raiders had out scored the Miners 35-14 since that long-ago 13-7 deficit, and looked like a team ready to win three straight sets.
Part of the reason for the Raiders' success was that they stopped hitting the ball at Gentry Warrick. The Miner star didn't have a block the last two sets, after getting 10 in the first two.
Vanderkolk said there was another reason.
"We were playing not to lose," he said. "Give credit to South Ripley, but I think we just got comfortable."
But you don't win 29 matches — Vanderkolk believes that's a school record — without heart, and the Miners showed theirs; also their depth.
A service error stopped a South Ripley run, and the Miners scored three straight. The Miners had a service error of their own, but came back with three straight points — a block by Oliver and two aces by Ally Brownfield. Now they were within 18-16.
South Ripley scored two straight, but then Neely Brown had maybe the biggest kill of her career and Gentry Warrick — whose service game hadn't been stellar to this point — stepped up and served five points in a row. She had two aces in that run and Sophie Hale a pair of kills.
South Ripley tied the match at 22, then again at 23 after a kill by Hale. And at 23-23 Hale got two more kills, giving her five (of her seven) in the last 11 points of the match.
"There was some weird stuff that happened," Vanderkolk said, "but it's how you respond that can swing things — and our girls responded."