Sep. 14—Midway through the 2021-22 high school volleyball season, the 9th District remains one of the most competitive groupings in Kentucky.
Prior to Daviess County's emergence last year, the 9th District had been primarily dominated by two programs for the past two decades. Since the turn of the century, including time spent in the 8th, 7th and 2nd districts, either Apollo or Owensboro Catholic had won the title in 18 of the previous 19 years.
Now, however, the landscape is wide open.
Apollo, Daviess County, Owensboro and Owensboro Catholic have all had their respective moments of triumph on the hardwood this season, and the battle down the stretch should be nothing less than thrilling.
As it currently stands, Owensboro Catholic sits at 8-3, 2-1 in the district, and the Lady Aces are fresh off capturing the 3rd Region All 'A' Classic championship over the weekend.
Catholic is led by senior dynamo Cate Sights, who ranks seventh in the state in kills per set (4.55). With freshman Olivia Castlen, junior Abby Baughman, junior Abigail Williams and Sights providing quality defense, the Lady Aces are fifth in Kentucky in blocks per set (3.7). The set-up skills of sophomore Kennedy Murphy (5.18 assists per set) and junior Paige Miles (4.79 assists per set) have Catholic at eighth in team assists (10.2).
After a 1-2 start to the season, the Lady Aces have won seven of their last eight outings — the sole loss coming against powerhouse Henderson County at the Jerry Mezur Spikefest earlier this month.
Meanwhile, defending district and 3rd Region champion Daviess County, 10-7 overall and 2-0 in district play, leans heavily on the junior tandem of Josie Newcom and Lexi Owen for its success. Newcom averages 3.86 kills per set, putting her 17th in the state while her team sits just outside the top 20 for kills per set (10).
Owen is ninth in assists per set (8.48) and 14th in blocks per set (1.26), putting DC at 20th and 10th overall in those categories, respectively.
DC has won three of its last four outings, which followed a three-game skid against some of the top squads in the state.
Owensboro has jumped out to an early start to the season, sporting an 11-6 record and a 1-2 mark against district foes. The Lady Devils are holding their own and building on the success they saw in 2020, in hopes of finally capturing a district crown of their own.
Paced by freshman Maya Joska (0.93 blocks per set) and junior Brooklyn Williams (0.91 blocks per set), OHS is ranked 19th in Kentucky for blocking. Kennedy Thompson (4.22 digs per set) also has the Lady Devils at 30th in that category, as well.
Williams (2.11 kills per set) and Joska (3.09 assists per set) are two talented, all-around performers for Owensboro, which will need their contributions down the stretch of the season.
On the other side of town, Apollo enters this week's action at 6-10 and 0-2 in district play, but the E-Gals have the talent and ability to compete. In fact, expect Apollo to be right in the thick of things when the district tournament rolls around.
Seniors Havanah John (3.09 kills per set) and Madalyn Boswell (2.76 kills per set) are among Apollo's most dangerous offensive players, while sophomore Ahalia Ramirez (6.46 assists per set) and senior Abby Spong (5.39 digs per set) provide essential back-up.
Since 2000, the E-Gals haven't registered a losing season — the closest they got was a 21-19 mark in 2008 — and they still have plenty of time to build up victories as the season progresses.
The volleyball talent in Owensboro is undeniable. It's a sport in which the 9th District has excelled for many years, and the 2021-22 campaign might be the most competitive ever.
In a month's time, we'll find out who actually reigns supreme in the 9th District — and, by extension, who will be a contender in the 3rd Region Tournament.
Until then, however, expect a fight to the finish for all four squads involved.