Tigers claim emotional sectional title in 5-set battle with Frankton

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Oct. 17—ALEXANDRIA — In a five-set classic, there was very little to separate Frankton from Alexandria as the two Central Indiana Conference co-champions battled for the Sectional 40 championship.

In the end, the player who started the night in dominating fashion made the one play necessary for her team to move on.

Addy Warren led the Tigers' offense early and put away the clincher for a dramatic and emotional 25-18, 25-23, 25-27, 23-25, 19-17 victory over the Eagles to give Alexandria its first sectional title since 2017.

The championship for the Tigers also comes on the heels of a difficult season that began with the sudden and tragic passing of head coach Deanna Miller, a two-week quarantine period and a 6-8 start to the schedule, leaving the possibility of this type of success in doubt.

But, as they did Saturday evening against Frankton, Alexandria never gave up.

"I told them after that second set that we knew they were going to take some sets from us," first-year coach Emalee Wyatt said. "We have to fight for it, and they did. They have been fighting all season long, and I have been commending them for it."

Led by Warren, the Alex service game blistered the Eagles early. The junior fired a pair of aces during her opening service run as the Tigers built an early lead at 15-9. Alexandria built on the advantage to lead by seven on three separate occasions, including the final. Ashlynn Duckworth had five kills in the set, and senior setter Kendall Parker had 15 assists as the Tigers were able to stay in-system throughout.

The Eagles found their rhythm in the second set, taking their first lead at 7-6 and eventually led 14-10 when Sydney Duncan put away a free ball at the net.

But senior Taylor Stinefield served Alexandria back in front with a four-point run that included two of her match-high four aces, and Alex led 20-16.

But three straight points from Addie Brobston — two kills and a block — pulled the Eagles back even at 20-20, and Adayna Key had Frankton on top 22-20 with one of her six kills.

But the Tigers scored the next four points and, after another Brobston kill, Parker dropped her own kill over the net to close out the set and give Alex a 2-0 lead.

Frankton came alive in the third set, building a five-point lead at 20-15 on a Key block. But Parker led the Tigers back with four more dump kills to pull even at 23-23 before a hitting error by Alex and an Emma Sperry kill kept Frankton in the match.

Frankton was in control of the fourth set, leading 9-4 on a Claire Duncan kill before pulling away to a 13-5 advantage.

A Parker service run brought the Tigers back to within one, but that was as close as they could get. Sperry finished off the set with another of her 11 kills.

This set the stage for a fifth set that appeared to be over no sooner than it had begun.

The Eagles took the early lead and built it to six points at 11-5 on an Alivia Swisher ace. The Tigers scored the next four points, however, to stay alive.

Consecutive Makena Alexander kills — she led the Eagles with 14 total — gave Frankton the first of five match points.

Much as they had done all season, the Tigers simply did not give in.

Stinefield wrecked two match points with kills, two passed harmlessly on hitting errors and the fifth on a serve error, which knotted the set at 17-17.

Alexandria took advantage of those extra chances and scored the next two points, the first on Stinefield's final of 16 kills and the second on Warren's 14th kill of the night.

"To be able to do that for my team, to finish for my team, and let them know I have their back and they have mine, they always will," Warren said.

"(Warren) was amazing tonight," Wyatt said. "I told her that we would not be here without her."

Parker finished with six kills to go along with 50 assists and, with tears in her eyes, said she knew Coach Miller would be proud of the fight the team showed Saturday evening.

"Deanna was definitely here with us tonight," the senior said. "It just kind of shows the fight that we have and that we believe in ourselves. It was very rough at the start (of the season), but we had to fight because that's what — we knew that's what Deanna would want."

"Every time they go out there, they say, 'Let's do it for D,'" Wyatt said. "All of this was for her. A lot of what they have with this team is because of her and the culture she brought to the team."

Alexandria (20-12) now advances to the Elwood regional where they will meet CIC rival and co-champion Madison-Grant after the Argylls won Sectional 39, also at home. Rossville (17-15) will face South Adams (26-8) in the other semifinal.

Frankton finishes its season at 21-11 and brings almost the entire roster back, only losing libero Shae Simon to graduation. There is optimism for the future, but Simon will be missed.

"The chemistry is — these girls get along. They love each other. They're great teammates," coach Beth Sperry said. "I love (Simon). She's so versatile. She was a hitter for three years, then I put her back there because she can pass so well. We're going to miss her."

Contact Rob Hunt at rob.hunt@heraldbulletin.com or 765-640-4886.

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