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Few gave Anderson County a chance to win the Eighth Region volleyball tournament. Not with three ranked teams in the fray and the Lady Bearcats still not knowing how good they really were.
Simon Kenton punctuated those questions with a resounding 3-0 win over the Lady Bearcats in the tournament semi-finals last Wednesday at Shelby County High School. The Pioneers (ranked 21st in the final statewide poll) were every bit as good as advertised as they ended Anderson's season.
Yet, the Lady Bearcats went down knowing their 20-16 finish is one of the best in Anderson history. It was also only the third time Anderson had ever advanced to the regional semi-finals and the first since 2009.
Simon Kenton, the 32nd District champion, was never seriously threatened as it put up wins of 25-9, 25-12 and 25-15. “Simon Kenton was deserving of their ranking,” said Anderson assistant coach Bob Hardin, who ran the team due to head coach Courtney DeLong being out sick. “All their girls hit the ball well. I think our girls were a little intimidated by them as we watched them the night before for a couple of games. Teams from northern Kentucky are usually pretty good anyway. They have a great club program, Union Club, and just about all the girls play.”
Hardin said Anderson still gave a good account of itself.
“We settled in after the first game,” he said. “We could see they were nervous but gradually progressed each game.
“All during the match, Steve (DeLong, another assistant coach) and I would tell them to relax and have fun with the games. All the pressure is on (Simon Kenton), you guys play like we practice. Swing hard.”
Simon Kenton, however, was just too talented. The Pioneers, who had eliminated perennial power South Oldham in the opener, eventually fell to North Oldham, 3-1, in the regional championship.
Anderson Co. 3, Carroll Co. 0
The Lady Bearcats rolled past 31st District champion Carroll County, 3-0 in the tournament opener last Tuesday.
Anderson was in control most of the way as it posted wins of 25-18, 25-15 and 25-22.
“We couldn't be happier with the way the girls played,” Courtney DeLong said. “They knew going into the first game that they had to come out and deliver if they wanted to advance and there was little room for error. Carroll County was a similar team to those that we had played against in the past and I think that gave them a little bit of a confidence boost in knowing they can hang with the teams in the region.”
DeLong said the Lady Bearcats' win was nothing fancy. “What won all three games was their attitudes toward each other,” she said. “That is the most Bobby or I have ever seen them play as a team and I think they finally realized what they are capable of when they work together. It didn't matter if one person got down on herself. Every single girl was there to help pick them back upand shake it off so that they could prepare for the next play.”
DeLong said the Lady Bearcats also displayed a bit of a killer instinct for the first time. “The girls were able to deliver each game and maintained the lead throughout. It's one of the first times that they didn't get comfortable with a one-game lead and they didn't let Carroll County back in.”
Hardin, who also leads the Anderson County Middle School program, says that even with the loss of five seniors, the future is bright.
“This is the first group of girls coming through our program that I have had since they were seventh-graders,” he said. “All of the kids in volleyball from the 12th grade down to the sixth grade ar mine. I have taught them all from scratch as sixth-graders. I have a lot of pride in our volleyball program and really have high expectations for the next several years.”
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