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The inaugural Anderson County SMASH Tournament really was a smashing success.
Ten volleyball teams from around Kentucky competed for the big trophy with Allen Central, from eastern Kentucky's 15th Region, captured the championship, defeating the host Lady Bearcats, 25-15 and 25-12, in the gold division final on Saturday evening.
Bardstown won the silver championship with Western Hills taking bronze and Monticello winning copper.
It was Anderson's best showing in a tournament in recent memory. The Lady Bearcats now stand at 12-9 heading into the home stretch with district tournament play beginning on Oct. 8.
“Typically, we don't perform well in tournaments,” Anderson coach Courtney DeLong said. “I'm not sure if it's because there are so many games being played in a weekend or if mentally, we psych ourselves out. This past weekend was different though. I'm assuming it was because the ladies were in the comfort of their own gym and were able to relax a little more than when traveling.”
Whatever the reason, Anderson won four tournament matches, running its winning streak to five, before meeting Allen Central in the finals.
Allen Central improved to 17-3 and has won 12 straight matches with the championship. DeLong was puzzled as to why her team struggled in the final. “I'm not sure if it was due to the long day of playing or if they were intimidated, but we definitely could have competed more with them.”
Anderson had been impressive in its opener against Western Hills, taking control late in game one, then cruising in the second.
(While high school volleyball went to a best 3-of-5 format this year, the tournament was played under the old system that used a best 2-of-3.)
The Lady Bearcats came back to whip Danville 25-10, 25-16 in the second game Friday, then pulled out a tough 25-13, 25-23 win over Thomas Nelson, a new high school in Bardstown. “I think the Thomas Nelson game was a great one for us,” DeLong said. “(Assistant coach Bob) Hardin gave constructive feedback to the team during timeouts and each person took the feedback to heart. It's not often that we can get everyone on the same page and they all were that morning.”
DeLong said the Lady Bearcats typically are not at the top of their game in morning matches. “It was just surprising to see them come out as energetic as they were.”
The Lady Bearcats pulled out a tough three-set win over Bardstown in the semi-final.
“This was the best tournament showing they have had so far and Coach Hardin and I are very proud of them,” DeLong said. “Their progression throughout the tournament was exactly what we expected and even though in some games they would start to back down, they pulled through in the end.”
DeLong said the program's first tournament was a success because of the work of many different people. “Coach Hardin worked hard to get everything squared away with the tournament and the brackets,” she said.
DeLong also noted that many volleyball parents and local businesses teamed up to make the event a success.
“Everything ran smoothly and we couldn't be happier with the way things ended up,” she said.
Anderson comes back to beat Franklin
The Lady Bearcats rallied after being down 2-1 to beat visiting Franklin County in five games (21-25, 25-12, 20-25, 25-18, 15-8) in what might have been the Lady Bearcats' most impressive comeback in a long time.
“The Franklin game was the first time the team has come back like that this year,” Delong said. “It's crazy, but it seemed as if all of the stars aligned and each player was on the same page. Each person was willing to leave it all out on the court and play to their full potential.”
DeLong said the Lady Bearcats have begun to see they have a chance to make 2012 a special year. “I think it's finally starting to click with each player individually and the team as a whole that their potential far exceeds what they ever thought it could be.”
The Lady Bearcats can make a major impact on the 30th District standings over the next eight days. The Lady Bearcats were to have hosted Spencer County Tuesday night after press time, then host Collins on Thursday, Sept. 13. Next Thursday, Sept. 20, Anderson will play at Shelby County. Those three matches will determine Anderson's seed in the district tournament.
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