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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