October 30th, 2011
Sweet 16: Rockets Capture Another Title
AHS follows leader George on mission to repeat
When the 2011 volleyball season began, Assumption coach Ron Kordes wasn't sure what was in store for his team.
Having graduated six Division-I players, dozens of questions remained about this year's team. Who was going to score? Who are the outside hitters? Who can play defense? No questions asked about who would lead them.
That would be Katie George.
The senior standout and University of Louisville commit commanded the floor all season long and her teammates followed in lockstep. The dynamic senior setter/outside hitter led her team to a 42-1 record, titles at the Durango Classic in Las Vegas and the Asics Challenge in Chicago, a top 3 national ranking and finally, a second consecutive state championship against the overmatched Lady Gators of Greenwood High School 2-0 (25-13, 25-18).
It wasn't that close.
The Rockets faced a who's who of the top teams in the country and defeated them all, including arch rival Sacred Heart Academy four times. They won their last 27 games and earned their 16th state championship in the past 20 years. You don't do that without a superior team effort. And you don't do that without great leadership.
"There are five seniors out there that that I'm really happy for," said coach Kordes. "They waited their turn to get into this arena behind seniors last year and I'm happy for them to have this opportunity. No drama all year. You put fifteen teenage girls together and you have no drama, something's good about that. Great leadership and the coaching staff did a phenomenal job."
There wasn't much drama during the entire state tournament save for a few points in the semifinal against Notre Dame. And there was little drama during this championship match.
The championship featured a public school team for the first time in decades, or ever since the state has kept stats on volleyball (since 1984). And that public school got to the championship because there were no Catholic schools in the entire upper half of the draw. All five of the Catholic school teams, including No. 1 Assumption, No. 3 Mercy and No. 4 Notre Dame, as well as Newport Central Catholic and Owensboro Catholic, were grouped in the same bracket.
The Rockets took leads of 6-1, 12-2 and 20-7 before finishing the first set with a 25-13 win. Junior middle blocker Taylor Paulson led the team with eight kills and a block, while George and senior libero Chelsea Bowles served two aces each. Greenwood was paced by senior outside hitter Courtney Smith's three kills and an ace service in the set.
While the second set score appears close, Assumption had a 24-13 lead before handing the Lady Gators their last five points on errors: a net violation, a ball in the net, a ball hit out of bounds, a mishandled set and another hit out of bounds.
That's about the most drama Kordes and his staff had to endure all season, unless one counts the dozens of sets they played against elite competition.
Sophomore middle blocker Lauren Tutwiler had four kills in the second set. Freshman middle blocker Nora Kiesler had a kill and two blocks, the second of which ended the game with a resounding thud. The Rockets middle blockers, Paulson, Tutwiler, Kiesler and senior Dallas Zimmerman combined for 15 kills and three blocks for the match.
"This team sort of found ways to win," said a jubilant Kordes. "They dug their way out of so many holes this year, but for the most part they settled down, supported each other and played for each other. I'm proud of them."
With the talented George leading the way, Kordes had the right player, on the right team, leading them at the right times. The team was built on her competitiveness, her drive, her will.
"For a season that I wasn't sure was going to happen, I'm so blessed and so proud of our team to have finished this way," George stated. "I never expected us to have this good of a season, I'll admit that. But we meshed so well and the team chemistry was awesome. We had a better year than we did last year, even with having lost those six seniors. You can't dream of a better season than what we had this year. We're not just teammates, we're sisters."
Kordes explained his side of the long journey back to the championship trophy. From the early part of the season, through the grind of 44 matches.
"I thought we'd be good, but I knew they'd have to come along quickly. We took a hiatus for a couple of years, but I didn't realize how much I missed this. It's fun to be on the winning end of it."
And it certainly was fun watching this team rise to new heights every time a formidable obstacle was placed before them.
For video highlights from Saturday's state championship match, visit: http://catholicsportsnet.com/louisville/view_csn_video/238
Assumption beats Henry Clay, Notre Dame to advance
by Chris Jung - Senior Writer
With Assumption High School ahead one set to none and holding a 22-20 lead in the state tournament semifinal match second set, Rockets senior captain Katie George seemed to sense that her team's opponent, Notre Dame Academy, was gaining momentum in the do-or-die set for the Pandas.
So with a brief break in the action, George made individual eye contact with all five of the other girls on the floor and sternly mouthed the words, "Right now."
Her simple, yet profound remarks were immediately followed by a Miranda Elpers kill (assisted by George) and two more successful Rocket points, propelling Assumption to a 2-0 (25-14, 25-20) win over NDA and back into the state championship match.
The 9th Region champion Notre Dame Academy, which defeated Southwestern and Newport Central Catholic in straight sets to advance the semifinals, committed nine uncharacteristic errors in the first set, including a net violation that gave AHS an 11-5 lead, and allowed the Rockets plenty of breathing room to settle into the match.
Assumption senior Taylor Long delivered two straight Rocket kills to push her team's lead to 18-8 and a booming kill from Taylor Paulson doubled up the Pandas and put the Rockets ahead 20-10. AHS would go on to win 25-14 on one of Hannah Moore's seven kills and take a 1-0 match advantage.
NDA took a 1-0 lead to start the second set and eliminated some of the unforced errors, but Assumption was relentless at the net and never allowed the Pandas to get over the hump. Notre Dame either tied or got within a point of the Rockets on 18 occasions until Moore's serve drew no return and AHS ballooned its lead back to 18-15.
Rockets senior Dee Zimmerman contributed a pair of thunderous kills down the stretch and Assumption held on to take the set and the match against a 32-win Notre Dame team. Assumption and NDA met twice during the regular season and played a total of six sets. The Rockets won five of them.
Just like the quarterfinal match, Moore led Assumption statistically in kills with 7. Paulson (6), Long (5) and Zimmerman (4) combined for 15 of the Rockets' 26 kills. George had 12 assists, 2 digs and a kill, while senior Chelsea Bowles racked up a co-game high 9 digs.
Elly Ogle (12 assists) and Emily Schmahl (5 kills in 19 attempts) led the Pandas and represented NDA on the All-State Tournament Team. Notre Dame finishes the season with a 32-6 record.
Assumption (41-1) will play Greenwood High School (27-16) at 7:30 on Saturday night for the state title. The Lady Gators are the first public school to ever advance to the Kentucky state volleyball championship match. The defending champion and No. 1 ranked Rockets will be playing for its 16th title in program history.
KHSAA State Tournament Quarterfinals: Assumption vs. Henry Clay High School
After Henry Clay pulled the first-round shocker of defending state runner-up Mercy Academy on Friday afternoon, the upset-minded Lady Devils put Assumption High School in its crosshairs Saturday morning in the state tournament quarterfinals.
But it was the Rockets who would do the hunting.
Behind a game-high 8 kills from sophomore Hannah Moore, 16 assists from senior Katie George and team-high 6 digs from senior libero Chelsea Bowles, the defending champs eliminated Henry Clay with a 2-0 (25-8, 25-17) win at Bellarmine University's Knights Hall.
It was Assumption’s 40th win this season and 70th all-time Kentucky state tournament victory.
The Lady Devils took a 1-0 lead in both sets, but that would be the only time Henry Clay would lead during the entire match due largely to 17 crucial attack errors by the state’s No. 6 ranked team from Lexington.
Assumption spread around the points in the first set and took leads of 6-1 and 11-2 behind kills from Taylor Paulson, Taylor Long and Dee Zimmerman. A service ace from junior Kaelin Grimes put the Rockets ahead 16-3 and forced a Lady Devil timeout.
George had 10 of her game-high 16 assists in the first set and eventually helped the Rockets take a commanding 1-0 match lead over an overwhelmed Henry Clay team.
The Rockets’ Moore was big for her squad in a tighter second half, as the sophomore outside hitter score four straight points at one point, including three kills and a service ace that allowed Assumption to keep a 12-11 lead.
Henry Clay did manage to cut the Rocket lead to 16-15, but back-to-back Lady Devil attack errors extended Assumption’s lead back to 18-15 and AHS would roll the rest of the way.
Long (5), Paulson (4) and Zimmerman (3) combined for half of Assumption’s 24 kills in the contest. Rockets sophomore Alexa Filley converted three kills on all three of her attempts and also was a key passer during six assists.
George and Filley combined for 22 of Assumption’s 24 total assists.
Henry Clay was led by Emily Stromberg’s four kills and Jordan Strickland’s eight assists in the losing effort and finishes its season with a 32-9 record.
Assumption (40-1) will play the Newport Central Catholic-Notre Dame winner at 3:15pm on Saturday in the state semifinals. The winner will then play for the 2011 state championship at 7:30 on Saturday night.