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Lady Knights fall in region semi-final

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By Jesse Osbourne

The Marion County High School volleyball team lost to a talented Central Hardin High School team in the region semi-final on Wednesday of last week at Central Hardin High School.

"I was disappointed that we lost but I was more disappointed with the way we lost," Head Coach David Hibbard said. "We did not show any of the heart or hustle that had been a characteristic of our team all season. Our team played scared and acted as though they did not believe they could win."

Marion County unraveled early in both games, competing hard and then quickly losing composure. In the first game, Marion County found themselves down 7-6 only to watch the Lady Bruins go on a run to make it 18-7. The Lady Knights lost that game 25-13.

In his post match report, Hibbard said the Lady Knights had trouble with passing on serve receive and on defense. Hibbard said the Lady Knights' offense never got anything going, managing only six kills in the first game. Junior Shelby Howard had three blocks in the game.

The second game found the Lady Knights up 10-5 but then the Lady Bruins went on another 11 point run, making it 21-10. The Lady Knights couldn't get up from the knock out blow. Central Hardin won on their home floor, 25-12.

Hibbard credited senior Kaitlin Knopp and Shelby Howard with great play to give Marion County early momentum. After that, the team lost composure. Seven straight errors put the Lady Bruins in control, according to Hibbard.

"The sad thing is that we played Central better three weeks ago and I thought we were poised to play an outstanding match," he said. "Any loss in the region is tough, but this one will stick for a while because of the way we lost."

On the flip side, this year's squad elevated the program's standards and took the program to heights future netters will have to work hard to achieve.

The Lady Knights set the record for most wins in the program's history at 28. The previous record was 19, set the year the Lady Knights lost in the region tournament final. Marion County played five less games that season. Regardless, this year's squad would still hold the record.

Marion County also won its first varsity tournament, beating LaRue County in its own tournament earlier in the season. The Lady Knights also finished runner-up in the Marion County Invitational.

Individual records were also set this season. Senior Kaitlin Knopp set the record for most season and career blocks. Senior Loren Taylor set the season and career assists record. Senior Kenna Smith set the season and career record for digs.

   

 

Nine Lady Knight seniors walked off the floor for the last time Wednesday night. Next season Marion County returns four players from the varsity squad. Hibbard also returns three juniors with junior varsity experience.

Hibbard, who goes into his 10th year of coaching the Lady Knights next season, expects next year's squad to play inconsistently next year.

He said he expects the young team to sometimes play really well and sometimes struggle.

"We're going to struggle at times. Probably more offensively than defensively," he said.

He said it will be an adjustment to learn the offense for the junior varsity players coming up the ranks. Junior varsity and freshman squads do not use the same system, he said.  

In order to get to the region semi-final, Marion County had to avenge a previous loss and defeat LaRue County 2-0 (27-25, 25-21) in the first round. The team struggled but still eked out a victory.

Behind 24-18 in the first set with game point on the line, the Lady Knights battled back to knot the score at 24-24. The teams tied again at 25-25 but the Lady Knights would pull away 27-25 to come from behind to steal the set and the momentum.

The second set was nip and tuck throughout, with both teams trading leads. LaRue tied the set at 21-21 but the Lady Knights reeled off four straight points to win the set and the match, 25-21.

"Wow! What a match! This one almost gave me a heart attack," Hibbard said in his post match report. "We showed some outstanding heart and composure in fighting off seven game points in the first game. I didn't know we had that in us, but I am so proud of our team for never giving up and fighting until the end."

The Lady Knights finished 28-14 on the season. They finished 8-0 in the district and 9-5 in the region.