Greenwood volleyball falls in state championship to Assumption

Greenwood volleyball players Abby Taylor (from left), Courtney Smith, Natalie Geis, Julia Reed and Cassidy Sterling hug Saturday after the KHSAA State Volleyball Championship at Bellarmine University in Louisville. The Lady Gators lost to Assumption 2-0 (25-13, 25-18). Joshua Lindsey/Special to the Daily News

Greenwood volleyball players Abby Taylor (from left), Courtney Smith, Natalie Geis, Julia Reed and Cassidy Sterling hug Saturday after the KHSAA State Volleyball Championship at Bellarmine University in Louisville. The Lady Gators lost to Assumption 2-0 (25-13, 25-18). Joshua Lindsey/Special to the Daily News

LOUISVILLE — Greenwoo fell 2-0 (25-13, 25-18) to perennial power Assumption in the final match of the KHSAA State Volleyball Tournament on Saturday at Bellarmine University’s Knights Hall, but not before becoming the first public school to play in the title match in the tournament’s 33-year history.

After the tournament draw placed every participating private school in the same side of the bracket, it opened the door for some history.

No team has held a stronger grip on the event than defending champion Assumption, one of the top-ranked teams in the country and winners of 16 of the last 20 state titles.

The Rockets (43-1) stayed on top Saturday, but someone else finally got to take a shot.

Greenwood fell behind 12-2 in the first set against Assumption and came no closer than nine points the rest of the way. Rockets outside hitter Taylor Paulson had an overpowering start, recording all eight of her kills in the first game.

“They hit well,” Greenwood junior outside hitter Samantha Mosher said. “They’re fast, they have good ball-handling. They’re just good all-around. I’m sure they have hard practices. We couldn’t keep up, but we played really hard.”

The Lady Gators hung tight early in the second set, but Assumption whittled away a comfortable advantage. Greenwood refused to go away, even facing elimination at 24-12.

The Lady Gators scored six straight points, mounting their final surge before an attack error brought the match to a close.

“We knew coming in it wasn’t going to be easy,” senior setter Taylor Faulkner said. “We had to play our hearts out, and we knew things probably weren’t going to go as we wanted them to. But we wanted to have fun the rest of the way.”

Smith finished the match with nine kills, while Mosher added three. Faulkner had 10 assists. All three players were named to the all-tournament team.

“We weren’t backing out or ducking what they were doing out there,” Greenwood coach Holly Whittinghill said. “We got some legitimate kills. Our best players got some big kills on them, so I can’t complain at all.”

The Lady Gators loitered on the court long after the title match ended, long after officials, fans and Assumption had gone.

As they finally departed – Whittinghill bearhugging the runner-up trophy – the players continued to celebrate breaking through the glass ceiling.

“We knew they were good, but we just wanted to come out and have fun,” Mosher said. “We wanted to keep that in focus. We made history tonight.”

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Lady Gators become first public school to reach state volleyball title match

Greenwood's Courtney Smith jumps in the air in reaction to scoring a point against North Oldham on Saturday during the semifinals of the KHSAA State Volleyball Tournament in Louisville. The Lady Gators won the match, becoming the first public school to ever reach the state finals. Joshua Lindsey/Special to the Daily News

Greenwood's Courtney Smith jumps in the air in reaction to scoring a point against North Oldham on Saturday during the semifinals of the KHSAA State Volleyball Tournament in Louisville. The Lady Gators won the match, becoming the first public school to ever reach the state finals. Joshua Lindsey/Special to the Daily News

LOUISVILLE – Thanks to the Greenwood volleyball team, public schools across the state have a little more hope.

The Lady Gators (27-16) beat North Oldham 2-1 (25-17, 27-29, 25-15) in the semifinals of the KHSAA State Volleyball Tournament on Saturday in Knights Hall at Bellarmine University, becoming the first public school to ever reach the championship match in the tournament’s 33-year history.

“It’s a little surreal,” Greenwood coach Holly Whittinghill said. “We’ve had a lot of struggles this season. We’ve had injuries, we’ve had sicknesses, we’ve had people quit. We’ve had 16 losses in our season, and this is the team that makes it to the finals. These girls deserve it.”

The Lady Gators had only reached the semifinals once before, knowing little but heartbreak in the tournament that has traditionally been dominated by the Louisville private school contingency.

Greenwood will play Assumption in the championship at 6:30 p.m. CDT tonight.

“We’ve been working for this all season long,” senior outside hitter Courtney Smith said. “We became a stronger team, and the stronger team’s going to be the first public school to go to the finals.

Greenwood volleyball parent Gayle Faulkner, of Bowling Green, holds up a sign Saturday in support of her daughter, senior Taylor Faulkner, and the rest of the Lady Gators team during the semifinals of the KHSAA State Volleyball Tournament in Louisville. Joshua Lindsey/Special to the Daily News

Greenwood volleyball parent Gayle Faulkner, of Bowling Green, holds up a sign Saturday in support of her daughter, senior Taylor Faulkner, and the rest of the Lady Gators team during the semifinals of the KHSAA State Volleyball Tournament in Louisville. Joshua Lindsey/Special to the Daily News

“We’ve never been put out of state by anyone other than one of those private Louisville schools. Here were are again in this same predicament, and what happens will happen. We’re happy to be where we are.”

The Lady Gators had little trouble in the first set against North Oldham,  jumping out to a  9-3 lead that they never relinquished.

But the Lady Mustangs took a stand after that, keeping pace in a game two that was tied 18 times. Greenwood staved off set point three times before eventually falling 29-27.

“They seemed to get more of a rhythm in the second game and were hitting the ball better, and we didn’t respond to that as well,” Whittinghill said. “We tried to be more aggressive in the third game, and I think our block affected them a little more.”

North Oldham led 4-2 early in the third set, but the Lady Gators rattled off a 10-0 run that the Lady Mustangs couldn’t overcome.

“Third games – if you’ve got to do it, you’ve got to do it well,” Smith said. “We knew they were going to come out firing in that second game because no team lays down in the semis.

“We had to play our butts off to beat them, and we came out in that third wanting to win. Our drive was insane.”

Smith had 21 kills in the match, while junior outside hitter Samantha Mosher had 14. Senior setter Taylor Faulkner had 36 assists. Senior defensive specialist Natalie Geis led Greenwood with nine digs.

Assumption has won 15 of the last 19 state titles. The Lady Gators played the Rockets during the regular season at the Louisville Invitational Tournament, falling 2-0.

But history isn’t enough to rain on Whittinghill’s parade.

“When we played them, Courtney was just playing at libero because of her ankle injury,” Whittinghill said. “They haven’t played against her hitting, which adds another dimension to us. I’m hoping for a bonus. Anything now is a bonus.”

Greenwood volleyball advances to state semis with win over Central Hardin

Greenwood's Courtney Smith (right) spikes the ball Saturday over Central Hardin's  Cheyenne Mills (left) and Alneisha Butler during the quarterfinals of the KHSAA State Volleyball Tournament in Louisville. Joshua Lindsey/Special to the Daily News

Greenwood's Courtney Smith (right) spikes the ball Saturday over Central Hardin's Cheyenne Mills (left) and Alneisha Butler during the quarterfinals of the KHSAA State Volleyball Tournament in Louisville. Joshua Lindsey/Special to the Daily News

LOUISVILLE – The Greenwood volleyball team was tested early in its quarterfinal matchup Saturday with Central Hardin at the KHSAA State Volleyball Tournament, but the Lady Gators forged ahead for a 2-0 (25-23, 25-19) win in Knights Hall at Bellarmine University.

Greenwood (26-16) will play North Oldham in the semifinals at 1 p.m. CDT. The match will be the Lady Gators’ second semifinals appearance ever, the first coming in 2006.

No public school has ever reached the finals, but that will change this year with all of the tournament’s private schools on the same side of the bracket.

North Oldham beat Allen Central earlier Saturday to advance to the final four.

“We’re going to need some momentum in the next one,” Greenwood coach Holly Whittinghill said. “North Oldham’s a good team, and we’re going to need to play much more solid and with fewer mistakes.”

Greenwood fell behind 23-21 in the first set Saturday morning but responded with a 4-0 run to close it out.

Central Hardin again led early in the second set at 6-3, but the Lady Gators scored five straight points and eight of the last 11.

“I felt like we were a little bit sloppy with our play,” Whittinghill said. “We were still playing a little bit nervous and not executing our block like we should, but we made plays when they mattered. I’m very happy we’re heading to the semifinals.”

Senior outside hitter Courney Smith had 14 kills and four aces against the Lady Bruins, and junior outside hitter Samantha Mosher finished with seven kills and three aces.

Senior setter Taylor Faulkner had 22 assists, and sophomore defensive specialist Abby Taylor added six digs.

North Oldham, the Region 8 champion, is 30-8 this season.

Glasgow QB Cash out for Friday’s game

Hey folks. There’s been quite a bit of buzz – and rumors – about Glasgow senior quarterback Parker Cash’s health status following a bit of a scare two weeks ago.

I went down to Glasgow on Wednesday and had coach Rick Wood set the record straight. I then received some additional info from Cash’s parents, through Wood, today, so I wanted to pass it along.

All of this info will be in Friday’s Daily News, but there’s a lot more to the story.

I talked to Wood about playing a deceiving Elizabethtown team this week, and I also chatted with running back Jalen Sublett and receiver Lajuan Smith about their increased roles with Cash out.

But for now, here’s the latest on Cash:

Wood confirmed Thursday that Cash will not play Friday against Elizabethtown, through a statement from Cash’s parents.

Cash was forced to leave the Scotties’ game against Green County two weeks ago after taking a hard fall on an onside kick return.

Rumors quickly began that Cash – who has suffered multiple concussions before – injured his head again, Wood said, but that’s not the case.

“When he landed, there were no bodies underneath him, and he landed on his back and shoulder,” Wood said. “I think it just knocked so much breath out of him that he went into a seizure.”

Wood was told by doctors on site that Cash may have been forced into convulsions because of a sudden loss of breath that momentarily stops blood flow to the brain, Wood said. He was told it’s not uncommon for children that fall on playgrounds to endure a similar seizure.

But all tests since have shown no signs of head trauma or a concussion, Wood said.

Cash visited a neurologist at Vanderilt University in Nashville on Wednesday for a second opinion, a consult which his parents, Greg and Jackie, said in an email was “a very good visit.”

“Parker will not be able to play on Friday, but can start getting ready for the playoffs,” the email stated. “Thanks to everyone for your concern and most of all your prayers!!”

So for the time being, Cash will resume throwing without fully practicing, while the Scotties prepare to face winless Elizabethtown at home.

Last week, Glasgow used Smith and senior Blake Copass at quarterback in Cash’s absence. Copass completed 2 of 4 passes for 56 yards and a score, and the Scotties rolled past Metcalfe County, 56-7.

Highlights: Sun Belt women’s basketball media day

A few themes surfaced during the Sun Belt Conference women’s basketball media day Tuesday.

For one, many teams in the league will be rebuilding. The word “parity” was tossed around frequently as coach after coach discussed integrating several newcomers into the fold.

There was also plenty of talk about improved scheduling efforts, as well as where the Sun Belt stands as a whole. Here are some of the highlights.

First, from a WKU standpoint, coach Mary Taylor Cowles:

On the Lady Toppers’ five seniors:
“I don’t think you replace young ladies when they leave your program. You just hope that you find others that are ready to step up and fill a need.”

“They’re collectively probably the best group of five seniors coming together. I’ve had some great leaders, don’t get me wrong. But as a whole, these five are really together.”

On the progress of the seven freshmen:
“Right now, there’s no separation because all their heads are spinning. They’re trying to learn what’s going on and how we do things, so we’ve got to be patient.”

On the balance in the conference:
“Different teams have lost some key players, but I think it also shows that they’ve got other players ready to make a name for themselves. That’s one reason I’m excited, because I feel like our league has continued to strengthen.”

On the ‘adversity’ of finding roles for new players:
“Number one, we don’t look at it as adversity, especially compared to some of the stuff we put up with last year.”

On the potential of senior forward LaTeira Owens:
“She and I had our longest talk last spring after the season. We had a long talk, really talking about her and her ability and my expectations for her – what her expectations are for herself. I’m really happy for her, but she couldn’t have cared less about this. She’s extremely focused and self-driven, and I know her senior season means a lot to her.”

On playing stiff competition:
“Our philosophy hasn’t changed at WKU. We’re going to play great competition in the pre-conference season to get us prepared for conference, because our conference is becoming very competitive. There are no off-nights. You can’t really turn it on and turn it off in the non-conference and expect to step up come conference season.”

The Sun Belt ranked 17th in conference RPI last season, according to CollegeRPI.com. But several coaches are working to change that. Thoughts:

MTSU coach Rick Insell, on playing a tough schedule:
“Even as a coaching staff, you wanted to see how you could match your wits up against those coaches that you’d admired and watched for years. I wanted to bring those people into Murfreesboro.”

“Yes, we’ve lost some games, but we’ve also won some games playing that type of competition. It also helps the conference. The RPI of our conference is one of the things we’ve talked about as a group — about what we can do to bring our conference up so we can be one of the top six or seven conferences in the country.”

FAU coach Chancellor Dugan on going to play at Michigan:
“It’s good to get out and see some Big 10 basketball and how it’s played. When you think of Big 10, you think of slowing down and throwing the ball inside and pounding it, but Michigan can get up and down the floor.”

Arkansas-Little Rock coach Joe Foley:
“When you bring in a Texas A&M that just won a national championship … they’ve got a possibility of even being better than they were last year. If you can bring that team in, that’s a huge advantage to get interested started.”

Denver coach Erik Johnson:
“As a conference, we’re playing some of the better teams in the nation. We’re going to be battle-tested come conference play, and we have a wide-open conference race.”

Finally, probably the quote of the day, which not too surprisingly came from Insell. The MTSU coach was asked about dealing with so many young players:

“I’m having to become a little more patient. I’m not used to us throwing the ball all over the gym. We’re committing as many turnovers as we possibly can right now. My coaches tell me I’ve got to learn to live with that, and for a while I guess I will.”

I’ll have a full look at media day in Wednesday’s Daily News. The men’s media day takes place Wednesday, and Chad Bishop will have full coverage of that.

Lady Toppers picked to finish 3rd in East; Owens on second team

The Sun Belt Conference released its women’s basketball preseason all-conference teams and poll Tuesday morning, in conjunction with the Sun Belt basketball media days.

Western Kentucky was picked to finish third in the Sun Belt’s East division, and senior forward LaTeira Owens was the Lady Toppers’ only representative on the all-conference teams, a second-team selection.

Denver’s Kaetlyn Murdoch and Middle Tennessee’s Ebony Rowe were selected as preseason co-players of the year.

The all-conference teams:

First Team
Name School Year Pos.
*Kaetlyn Murdoch Denver Sr. F
*Ebony Rowe Middle Tennessee So. F
Mercedes Johnson Louisiana-Lafayette Sr. F
Shania Hurst Arkansas State Sr. G
Jerica Coley FIU So. G
Second Team
Name School Year Pos.
Jasmine Godbolt North Texas Jr. F
Marian Kursh UALR Sr. C
Icelyn Elie Middle Tennessee Jr. F
Larrie Williams Louisiana-Monroe Sr. C
LaTeira Owens WKU Sr. F
Third Team
Name School Year Pos.
DeAngela Sword Troy Sr. G
Finda Mansare FIU Jr. F
Sarda Peterson South Alabama Sr. G
Emiko Smith Denver Jr. G
Breana Turner Florida Atlantic Sr. G
* – Denotes Preseason Co-Players of the Year

 

And the preseason poll, as selected by the league’s 12 head coaches.

WEST DIVISION
1. Denver (6) – 62
2. Arkansas State (1) – 56
3. UALR (3) – 53
4. Louisiana-Monroe – 29
5. North Texas (1) – 28
6. Louisiana-Lafayette (1) – 24

EAST DIVISION
1. Middle Tennessee (9) – 68
2. FIU (1) – 58
3. WKU (1) – 48
4. South Alabama – 38
5. Florida Atlantic (1) – 23
6. Troy – 17

Note that WKU received one first-place vote in the East division. All of the Sun Belt women’s basketball coaches are scheduled to speak throughout the morning via web conference, including WKU coach Mary Taylor Cowles at 10:50 a.m.

I’ll have more this afternoon from around the league.

Spartans make the postseason, and more

With deadline calling Friday night, I had several quotes from South Warren’s 38-10 win over Adair County that didn’t make Saturday’s paper.

The Spartans punched their ticket to the playoffs in their first varsity season with the victory, their third in the last four games.

“For a first-year varsity program to get to go to the playoffs, and to see where these kids came from, I’m proud of them,” South Warren coach Mark Nelson said. “They’ve worked and bought in, and they’ve done a great job of doing whatever we ask. I’m proud of their accomplishment, because it’s all them. They’re a great group.”

The Spartans’ offense has continued to improve, as sophomore quarterback Jay Eblen totaled four touchdowns Friday night. Senior kicker Clay Nelson also booted his county-best seventh field goal of the season.

South Warren also got some help from Adair County, as the Indians had 19 penalties and two players ejected for unsportsmanlike conduct in the fourth quarter.

One of those penalties was for kicking a South Warren player on the ground, and the other was for a player jawing at a referee. Must have been some strong words.

That second incident brought about three unsportsmanlike conduct flags, which actually advanced the Spartans 46 yards in one play.

“That’s all about them losing their head,” Eblen said. “But to their credit, it’s a big game. We’re trying to get to the playoffs, so it was a really intense game.”

The win did indeed secure South Warren the No. 3 seed in Class 3A, District 2, while sending Adair to fifth place. The Spartans will visit Fort Campbell in the first week of the postseason.

“We started with our first goal, saying we wanted to go to the playoffs,” senior Heath Holloman said. “We knew we had to come out here and execute. Adair County gave us a fight, and we came out and got the job done. We’ve got one more game to take care of, and then we’re headed to the playoffs.”

That last game is South Warren’s Senior Night against Todd County Central. Nelson emphasized to his players after the game that making the playoffs made the final game of the regular season even more important for momentum purposes.

Holloman and the Spartans took notice.

“We want to do what we do every game,” Holloman said. “They’re a good team too. You can’t come out thinking you’re going to whip them. You come out and play like you do every week.”
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Just a couple of other notes from Friday:

How about the two thrillers in the area? Edmonson County wins its first district title in 25 years with a wild double-overtime win over Monroe County, and Franklin-Simpson wins its district outright by edging Allen County-Scottsville, 35-34.

Undefeated Bowling Green also blew the doors off of Greenwood, 62-12.

According to BG coach Kevin Wallace, Purples senior quarterback Scooter Hollis is now just the second player in school history to pass for 3,500 career yards and rush for 1,000 more.

The first play to do that was current Army quarterback Trent Steelman, who suffered a leg injury against Vanderbilt on Saturday. Hollis now has a 61-percent career pass completion rate and 56 total touchdowns.