‘It feels really awesome.’ 11th Region champs find way back to state tournament.
Lexington Herald Leader / www.kentucky.com
October 30, 2019
Link to photo slide show = https://www.kentucky.com/sports/high-school/article236843813.html
After a two-year absence, Henry Clay is headed back to the state volleyball tournament.
The Blue Devils knocked off Paul Laurence Dunbar 3-1 in the 11th Region finals at Tates Creek on Wednesday night in front of a charged-up crowd that included University of Kentucky basketball star Nick Richards and UK volleyball phenom Leah Edmond — who played for the Bulldogs in high school.
It was a bit of payback for Henry Clay, which saw its season end at the hands of the Bulldogs in the 11th Region Tournament the last two years. The Blue Devils will take a nine-match win streak into the state tournament.
“It feels really awesome to be honest with you,” said Henry Clay Coach Dale Grupe of the return to state. “But to be honest with you we’re in such a tough region that this was by far … one of the toughest matchups of the entire postseason.”
Henry Clay (26-11) was No. 8 in the latest Kentucky Volleyball Coaches Association rankings while Dunbar (29-10) was ranked No. 10.
“I knew whoever won this match was going to represent (the 11th Region) well at state. I’m really glad it’s us,” Grupe said. “I thought our girls were really primed and ready. The last couple of years have been tough. Dunbar took it and deserved it, now I think we took it and deserved it.”
It was far from easy for Henry Clay on Wednesday. After the Blue Devils took the first set 25-17, Dunbar prevailed 25-22 in a marathon second in which neither team led by more than three points. Three points was also the biggest margin in set No. 3, which Henry Clay won 25-23. The Blue Devils pulled away late to win the fourth set 25-20.
Taylor Trammell was a force in the middle for Henry Clay. The senior middle blocker provided two key kills late in the third set, including the clincher. After Dunbar pulled to within 22-19 in the fourth set, Grupe called a timeout. Trammell hammered home another point out of the break, then finished off the match with an emphatic spike.
“Taylor has been coming back slowly from an injury but she’s definitely at full strength right now,” Grupe said. “She definitely showed it tonight. She stepped up and led us.”
Now, the Blue Devils have a shot to make another deep run at a state title. In 2016 they swept their opponents in the first three rounds before falling to Sacred Heart 3-1 in the championship match.
“It feels amazing to be going back,” Trammell said. “We’ve worked so hard this whole season to get to the point where we are and it’s really rewarding to see it pay off … I’m just so proud of my team and how we played tonight and I’m just so ready to go to state.”