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MOUNT WASHINGTON - Everyone at the Eighth Region Volleyball Tournament knew that North Oldham was good.
But in Wednesday's semifinal match at Bullitt East High School, the Lady Mustangs could have been mistaken for an Olympic team. Such was the aftermath of the 25-6, 25-17 whipping they put on Anderson County, ending the Lady Bearcats' deepest post-season run in the program's history.
North Oldham powered its way to the first six points in game one, then after Anderson's second game rally, scored seven of the last nine points to advance to the championship match. North Oldham defeated rival Oldham County in two games and will be making its first appearance in the state tournament this week at Bellarmine University in Louisville.
While North Oldham owns an unspectacular 18-17 record, the Mustangs played a rugged schedule that included many teams from the Louisville and Northern Kentucky volleyball hotbeds.
"They are good, but we made them look really, really good, especially in the first game," said Anderson coach Corey Sayre, whose team finished 19-13.
North Oldham established its superiority from the outset as 6-footers Betsy Smith and Chelsea Volz scored a kill and a block on the match's first two points.
"That block was very big because it took away our middle. They are not the biggest players we have seen this year, but they are the best big girls we have seen," Sayre said.
Instead of the aggressive team that earned the top seed in the 30th District tournament and at one time put together an eight-match winning streak, Anderson turned tentative.
"We came out scared," junior Miriam Kemper admitted. "They were so much bigger than we were."
Playing in the regional semis for the first time also has that effect.
When the Lady Bearcats could not return a serve to fall behind 4-0, it was apparent they were already in deep trouble.
"When we got up 4-0, I saw it in their faces," said North Oldham coach Brian Jones. "It was like they were thinking, 'Oh, no!' and were a little shell shocked."
At one point, North Oldham ran off nine straight points, scoring on kills, blocks, dinks, aces and any other way possible.
"Our biggest problem was no passing," Sayre said. "And we didn't get touches on the ball to slow down their hits."
Anderson regrouped and actually led at 3-1 after a pair of Hannah Smith kills, but North took the lead for good when Volz capped a 4-point run with a spike.
Smith played much of the night trying to overcome pain in an ankle which she turned early in the contest.
The Lady Bearcats closed to within 13-12 when K.K. Fitzpatrick scored on a return that scooted along the top of the net, then fell before North could make a play. But after Jones called timeout, Volz, a junior, recorded three kills and a block on the next four points.
Anderson was never closer than three points again.
"I told the team that I was very proud of them for the way they came back in the second game," Sayre said.
"He told us that we had the best season he had coached," Kemper added.
And even though Anderson went down last week, the belief that the program is emerging as a force to be reckoned with was not lost Wednesday.
"I have watched Anderson County over the years," said Jones, who has worked in the programs at Paul L. Dunbar and Woodford County. "I can tell you that their program has come a long way."
"We are much more team oriented now," Sayred said. "We have some girls that are very focused as a team."
Kemper, a junior who became a major factor for the Lady Bearcats, agreed. "My freshman year, we won the district, but that was because of Inken (Blatt, an exchange student from Germany who could dominate a game on her own), but now, we win as a team."
And, Sayre drew upon a figure who made his name just down the road from Seymour, Ind., where he graduated from high school. "This is like Bobby Knight's Season on the Brink," Sayre said, referring to John Feinstein's best-seller. "If we really work in the off-season, we can be very good next year. If we work in the off-season, we can be like North Oldham."
Fitzpatrick and Smith were named to the All-Eighth Region Tournament team by the participating coaches.