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PREP VOLLEYBALL: Veteran LaRue County sweeps John Hardin (10/9)

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By Ryan O'Gara

When the visiting John Hardin Lady Bulldogs made late runs in the first and second set, LaRue County coach Ben Schell called timeout.

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Coaches are allowed a minute to talk with their teams, but Schell was very brief with the Lady Hawks, sending them back onto the court after about 15 seconds each time.

When a team is as experienced as the Lady Hawks and on a roll like they are, there just isn’t much to say.

LaRue County fought off those rallies from John Hardin and then cruised to a win in the third set to earn a 25-21, 25-23, 25-17 victory Tuesday night.

The Lady Hawks (18-5) start four seniors and have 13 wins in their last 14 matches, so it’s usually pretty easy for them to identify their mistakes.

“I think it’s that we know what we did wrong. As soon as it happens, we know,” said LaRue County senior middle hitter Alley Evans of the short timeouts. “He just tells us to pick it up because he doesn’t really need to tell us (anything more). We know.”

Evans led a balanced attack, finishing with seven kills – one of four players with five or more kills – seven digs and three blocks. Sophomore outside hitter Chloe Owen added seven kills, four digs and two aces.

Schell stressed starting strong after the Lady Hawks scored just six points in the first set of a loss to Green County last Thursday, and they did in going up 21-11 in the first set. Two kills from junior outside hitter Alyson Yingling put the Lady Hawks up 24-16, but the Lady Bulldogs (8-13) rattled off five straight, highlighted by an ace from senior outside hitter Justice Bayless.

Schell, however, didn’t panic. He called timeout, muttered a sentence or two and the Lady Hawks won the set on the next point.

“Timeouts in volleyball are really just to break momentum,” Schell said. “There’s times when the other side calls timeout and I won’t even talk to my girls, I’ll just send them right back out. There’s no need. They know, and that’s the good part of coaching. When I’m coaching players who have been playing with me, I don’t have to develop all of this strategy in the timeouts.”

LaRue County built a 20-15 lead in the second set on one of senior middle hitter Ivy Brown’s five kills, but John Hardin eventually tied it at 23, prompting Schell’s second timeout of the set.

The Lady Hawks regrouped, however, as Owen and Brown closed the set with kills.

“The key is mental toughness. If you’re not with it mentally, you’re probably going to mess up,” Evans said. “We just have to stay calm and avoid mental breakdowns.”

John Hardin hung around in the third set but eventually wore down after pulling within 18-17. Brown, Yingling and senior setter Lorren Newby had kills in a 7-0 run to complete the sweep.

“The games were close, but I didn’t ever think they were in doubt,” Schell said. “We were the better team, and you could tell.”

John Hardin senior setter Sydney Conahan had 18 assists and two aces, while senior middle hitter Kaitlyn Priddy and junior outside hitter Ebonie Hampton tallied five kills apiece. Senior outside hitter Morgan Parsons added three kills.

“We made some improvements tonight,” said John Hardin assistant coach Tiffany Allen, who was making her varsity head-coaching debut and standing in for Coach Tiffany Walker while she attended to a family matter. “We were very good on our covering and we got a lot of our serves in.”

Brown also had five aces and two blocks for the Lady Hawks, which have won 34 of their last 39 sets. Newby handed out 21 assists while senior libero Sadie Peters chipped in with 11 digs.

UP NEXT: LaRue County plays Warren East in the Jerry Mezur Spikefest at Henderson County at 10 a.m. Saturday. John Hardin plays at Green County at 8 p.m. Thursday.

Ryan O’Gara can be reached at 270-505-1754 or rogara@thenewsenterprise.com.