It was now or never for the Alter’s seniors.
“The past few years, when we’d lose, we’d say ‘we’ll get them next year,’ but we couldn’t say that this time,” Alter defensive specialist/libero Kelly Heyd said. “There is no next year.”
Heyd and fellow four-year varsity players outside hitter Marie Gross, middle hitter Abby Shaffer and setter Audrey Binzer were determined to finish their final season in the same place they finished their first season – the state tournament. Alter defeated Kenton Ridge 25-16, 16-25, 25-20, 25-8 in the Division II regional volleyball championship at Butler High School Saturday, advancing to the state tournament for the first time since 2014.
The Knights came out firing, racing to a 25-16 win in the opening set but were unable to maintain the momentum in the second set as Kenton Ridge quickly doubled up on Alter, 10-5. The Knights could never muster a lead as the Cougars soon evened the contest at a set apiece.
“We passed better, we hit harder and smarter and we were getting more blocks,” Kenton Ridge coach Angie Arthur said. “We did all of the things in our game plan.”
After a hard-fought, five-set semifinal battle with conference foe Fenwick two days earlier, the Knights were not as prepared as they would have liked to be for the Cougars.
“I think we underestimated Kenton Ridge to some degree,” Alter coach Tina Jasinowski said. “We gave our all on Thursday, it was a long, late night and a short turnaround and I don’t think we were as emotionally prepared as we would have liked to have been.”
The third set meant another momentum swing – this time in the Knights favor – as Alter translated a 5-5 tie into an 11-6 lead. The Cougars evened the contest at 13-13 but could never snag the lead.
After taking a 2-1 lead, Alter wasn’t about to give up the momentum in the fourth set. The Knights took advantage of Cougars errors to jump out to a 9-1 lead and force Arthur to burn her second timeout.
“I took a gamble and rotated our normal rotation hoping our block would be better,” Arthur said. “But they just kept pounding away.”
The Knights never let up and, for the second consecutive match, Gross posted 20 kills and Binzer tallied 40 assists. Alter senior libero/defensive specialist Elizabeth House finished with 19 digs. Junior opposite side hitter Mikala Morris led the Cougars with 10 kills as Kenton Ridge closed out the season with a 24-4 record.
The Knights (21-6) advance to the D-II state semifinals on Friday at the Nutter Center.