BY DEAN HOCKNEY
RUSSIAVILLE, Ind. – Entering the 2017 IHSAA Girls Volleyball State Tournament, it had been seven years since a Howard County squad had captured a sectional crown. In fact, since the IHSAA launched its annual state tournament 46 years ago, only 28 teams from Howard County had advanced to the regional – the last was Western in 2010.
Last Saturday, Northwestern added its name to the list by winning its first sectional championship since 2000 by defeating West Lafayette 3-1 in the title match of the Class 3A Western Volleyball Sectional. The Lady Tigers won its sixth overall sectional 15-25, 25-11, 25-18, 25-23. In the process, Northwestern set a school record with its 25th victory of the season (against seven losses).
But it did not come easy. The Red Devils scored 13 of the final 16 points in the first set and looked to be in complete command of the championship match. The Lady Tigers righted the ship and went on an 11-2 run of its own in set two to cruise to the 14-point win. Northwestern kept the pressure on in set three by jumping to a 5-1 lead before winning by seven points.
The fourth set featured seven lead changes and 16 ties – including a nail-biting 23-23 score in the win-by-two match. But the Lady Tigers scored the final three points of the match – the final courtesy of a pass from Kendall Bostic to Layden for a kill – to earn the sectional trophy and a date in the regional.
Madison Layden led the Tigers with 26 kills and Kendal Rooze added 26 assists.
In the semifinal match, the Lady Tigers downed Frankfort 3-0 (25-11, 25-9, 25-21).
The Lady Tigers advance to the Kankakee Valley Regional on Oct. 21 against Griffith (6-6, incomplete record provided to the official IHSAA online bracket) in the second match of the day. The opener featured Hanover Central (29-5) against No. 6 Mishawaka Marian (25-6). The winners will meet in the regional championship at 6 p.m.
Howard County squads fall in early rounds
The Kokomo Lady Wildkats (13-18) fell to No. 5 Zionsville 3-0 (9-25, 4-25, 14-25) in the opening match of the Class 4A McCutcheon Sectional in Lafayette.
Playing on its home court, the Western Lady Panthers (15-13) dropped its semifinal match to West Lafayette 3-0 (23-25, 18-25, 23-25) after defeating Maconaquah in the opening round 3-0 (25-19, 25-21, 25-15).
At the Class 2A Madison-Grant Sectional, Eastern (14-19) won its opening match 3-1 against Eastbrook (25-18, 22-25, 25-22, 25-19) before falling to the host Argyll’s 3-1 (12-25, 23-25, 25-19, 23-25). Taylor (1-25) dropped its opener 3-0 to Oak Hill (7-25, 17-25, 6-25).