NORTH VERNON – New Albany volleyball unleashed an indefensible weapon on Thursday night,
Allyson Cathey, a 6-foot-1 sophomore hammer from any spot on the court, powered New Albany to a tense victory over Bedford North Lawrence in the first round of the Class 4-A sectional at Jennings County.
The Bulldogs (17-17) avenged a loss to the Stars during the Hoosier Hills Conference Tournament with a 20-25, 25-15, 25-22, 26-24 triumph and advanced to meet either Jeffersonville or Jennings County in the semifinal on Saturday morning.
Defending sectional champion Floyd Central will face Seymour in the second semifinal. The championship match is set for Saturday night.
BNL suffered a double loss. The Stars had to finish without star senior Alyssa Spears, who suffered a left foot injury late in Game 4 and could not return.
The Stars (22-11) were deadlocked with the Bulldogs at 22-22 in the final set when Spears and Cathey clashed at the net and Cathey accidently came down on Spears’ foot. BNL, briefly spurred by the emotional loss of their leader, surged to a 24-23 advantage and had chances to force a deciding fifth game.
Cathey and the Bulldogs didn’t allow that to happen. She crushed down two kills, including match point, and buried the Stars in a tomb of heartbreak.
“The difference was they have a big-time stud, and they use her,” BNL coach Scott Saunders said. “She hurt us. She hurt us as much from the back row as she did from the front.”
Cathey, according to the New Albany stat keepers, had 19 kills, although that seemed a conservative total. She blasted spikes from the back row, she overwhelmed BNL’s defense with unstoppable kills from close range.
“When Allyson is on, she can finish from anywhere on the court,” New Albany coach John Breeding said. “I’ve had some great players over the years. I don’t know I’ve had one who can attack out of the back row from anywhere.”
Spears, who was the centerpiece of New Albany’s defensive schemes, finished her last career match with 17 kills, 16 assists and 10 digs.
“She is a great player,” Breeding said. “She was part of our problem, and we knew it.”
Breeding was quick to point out “you can’t win a tournament with one player” and Cathey (who set the school record for single-season kills during the match) had plenty of support, especially from setter Sadie Meyer (45 assists) and Emma Balmer (4 aces).
The revenge win over the Stars was the first step in erasing a disappointing regular season for the Bulldogs.
“We put that behind us,” Breeding said. “We talked about consistency and intensity, no matter what happens. We didn’t fold. We just hung tough. Flip a coin on who could win this sectional. That Bedford team was one of them. That was one of the best teams they’ve had in a while.”