By Josh Brown
CASSTOWN — During its state championship season last year, the Miami East volleyball team talked often about responding when things are tough.
And in the regular season, it doesn’t get much tougher than the competition at the Casstown Clash tournament.
The Vikings took on Notre Dame Academy from Kentucky to start the day, getting swept in two close games to fall into the consolation bracket. There, though, Miami East battled back with a dominant sweep of Adams Central then came from behind in both sets to sweep Columbus Bishop Hartley to take fifth place Saturday at Miami East High School.
Notre Dame Academy defeated the Vikings 25-20, 30-28 in the opening round, meaning the best that Miami East could hope for on the day was a fifth-place finish.
“Sometimes, it’s the unknown in that first match,” Miami East coach Dan Peterson said. “We weren’t sure what we were going to see, and then when we did see it, we didn’t react as well as we should have. We didn’t have any scouting on them, but we saw what we needed to — but we just didn’t respond as well as we would’ve liked.”
Still, the Vikings were able to pick up some momentum late in the second set. Trailing 24-16, East went on a long service run, fighting off match point after match point and even taking a 25-24 lead before Notre Dame was finally able to put the match away.
“We were down big, but we talked about controlling what you can control,” Peterson said. “And we started controlling that a lot better and started making the plays we needed to. It was a good run, and we had a lot of good blocks, too. That was the difference.”
Jonni Parker had 11 kills, six assists, an ace, a dig and a block in the match, Kyndall Hellyer had five kills, an ace, four blocks and four digs, Lydia Conley had two kills and a block, Kaitlyn Mack had a kill and a dig, Macie Schaffner had nine assists and three digs, Sophie Jacomet had two assists, an ace and three digs, Gabrielle Hawkins had five digs and Sierra Kinnison and Anna Jacomet each had a dig.
The Vikings responded in a big way against Adams Central in the first consolation round, winning convincingly, 25-5, 25-14.
“We played back to back, so we talked after the first match about making sure it doesn’t carry over,” Peterson said. “We talked about having a good response, and it was good to see. Sometimes when you play back to back, you can have a tendency to let the bad things carry over, and we didn’t let that happen.”
Hellyer led the Vikings in that match with six kills and four digs, Parker had five kills, seven assists, four aces and six digs and Mack had five kills. Conley added four kills, Mikayla Schaffner had a kill and a dig, Macie Schaffner had 10 assists and four digs, Sophie Jacomet had two assists, an ace and 11 digs, Hawkins had an ace and two digs, Delaney Bourelle had a dig and Kinnison had a block.
In the consolation final, the Vikings faced Bishop Hartley in what proved to be their best showing of the day. East fell behind in both sets, but lengthy service runs in both brought the team back, and the Vikings were able to post a 25-21, 25-22 sweep to claim fifth.
“We usually play them in the regular season,” Peterson said. “When we ended up playing them here, their coach said to me ‘well, I guess it’s just meant to be.’ Playing them is kind of like playing a family member at this point — our players have become pretty good friends with each other, they follow each other on social media. It’s like one of you family members in that you know you’re going to have a good time, but you still want to beat them.”
In the first set, the Hawks built a lead as big as four at 12-8 and held a 13-10 lead before Parker changed everything with one service run. She dropped two straight aces on the back line, then Bourelle came up with a big block to keep the run going. Three more aces by Parker forced Hartley to call timeout down 17-13.
The Hawks finally put an end to the run coming out of the timeout, but by then the damage was done. The closest Hartley got from there was two points at 22-20, but a kill by Parker closed out the set at 25-21.
In the second set, the Vikings fell behind again, trailing by as many as five as late as 14-9. But Hellyer served them back to with 14-13 and Sophie Jacomet served the Vikings out to a brief 16-15 lead. The teams traded runs until a block by Parker and Conley gave East a 22-20 lead. From there, Hellyer tallied East’s final three points with kills to wrap things up.
“Kyndall had a big run and Sophie had a big run to get us back into it,” Peterson said. “We called our timeouts early and talked about how we were still within a few points and to have a better response — and you can tell we did. We came out a little more focused. And when they were taking their timeouts in that second set, we knew they were going to push, so we talked about pushing harder.”
For the match, Parker finished with 13 kills, 10 assists, six aces, eight digs and a block and Hellyer had 10 kills, two blocks and four digs. Bourelle added three kills, a dig and a block, Mack had two kills, Macie Schaffner had 12 assists and three digs, Sophie Jacomet had two aces and 11 digs, Hawkins had seven digs and Anna Jacomet had two digs.
St. Francis DeSales ended up winning the tournament for the second straight year, defeating Notre Dame in three sets.
Miami East improved to 11-2 on the day, and the Vikings return to action Tuesday against Arcanum.
“It’s a positive for us,” Peterson said of the day. “We always talk about seeing the level that we need to be at. And today especially — Hartley is a really good team, Notre Dame, Adams Central, all of these teams are good. We see the level we need to be at — and how we can match it. Now, it’s all about finding that consistency.”
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.