JASPER — A year after its district championship run ended, the Lafayette High volleyball team returned to its usual perch.
The Hornets blanked Hilliard 3-0 (25-16, 25-21, 25-22) on Thursday in the District 5-1A championship match at Hamilton County.
“It was disappointing to lose the streak in my first year of coaching,” coach March Richardson said. “But I’m very proud of my team to bring back the title.”
With the win, Lafayette hosts rival Branford in a region semifinal Thursday with the winner advancing to Tuesday’s regional final. Bell hosts Hilliard in the other semifinal.
Lafayette (13-9) jumped out to a quick lead with middle blocker Addison Edwards getting a block at the net and two kills in a row to make it 19-8 in the first set against Hilliard, which fell to 9-10. Edwards kept up her good play as middle blocker and outside hitter Harmony Richardson got the final point in the first set.
“Edwards had a couple balls come over the net that she could utilize for kills,” Richardson said. “A lot of times that doesn’t happen. It’s hard to set middle, you have to have a perfect pass for middles to be utilized (like that).”
The second set was tighter but Edwards continued her adept net play with a one-handed block at the net to pull LHS within 10-8. Then Harmony Richards got three quick kills to put the Hornets up 14-11. Edwards got another terrific block at the net at make it 15-11, but Hilliard’s Kinley Bullard got two kills to make it 15-12, Hornets. Bullard, a junior hitter, finished with 13 kills.
But things were going the Hornets’ way when Hilliard middle blocker and hitter Vivian Gorey had a smash kill attempt up the middle that LHS kept alive and the point went the Hornets’ way. Emily Lyons got the winning point for set two when Bullard partially blocked one of her shots that landed in.
LHS was sputtering in the third set before Charlie James got two kills, and Harmony Richardson got some kills and saved a shot that led to a point.
“I try to put the ball down whenever we need it,” Harmony Richardson said. “Both times we played Hilliard this year (in the regular season) we won in five sets, so it was really exciting to win in three.”
Coach Richardson credited Harmony Richardson and James with carrying the team thru a recent “dry spell,” adding that a recent switch, moving James to outside hitter, gave her confidence as a player.
“James has picked up her game, and she’s definitely come alive these last few games,” Marcy Richardson said, adding that Harmony Richardson’s kills in the third set sparked the comeback win. “That pumps the team up, it pumps her up. We get down together, and we get up together as a team. It’s been about five or six games since they’ve played like a team and tonight they did.”
After Lyons recorded two kills in a row at the left side of the net to tie the game 18-18, and that also sparked the team. Middle blocker Brooklyn Fleming got a block-point at the net to put LHS up for good.
“Tonight our serve receive was the best it’s been all year, and our practices were very specific this week to defense,” Marcy Richardson said. “We had a couple issues and we talked it out and we played better than expected. They played tonight how they can play, we’re back, and I hope we can keep this momentum. This week I’ll have my middle back (Alexis Koch is a starter at middle blocker but has been injured and didn’t play.) I’m excited we pulled it out in three. Their momentum was going and we played well.”