May 10th, 2016

St. X sweeps Rocks for volleyball title

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Conor Revell

Managing Editor


St. X sweeps Rocks for volleyball title
The Tigers were in a happy mood after beating Trinity in the state championship match / photo by Conor Revell

St. Xavier didn’t want a repeat of 2013 when it took the court against Trinity in Tuesday night’s Kentucky State Volleyball Championship title match.

Three years ago, St. X easily beat the Shamrocks in their two regular season matches before losing to Trinity in the state final. But this time the host Tigers took care of business, sweeping their rivals for the third time this season 25-14, 25-21, 25-7 to win their third straight title.

“Everybody knows about it and remembers it,” St. X head coach Ward Lotze said. “This is my sixth year and fifth state title, but everybody still reminds me about that one time. We beat them two of the three times that year but didn’t win at the right time.”

St. X has now won 14 state volleyball titles dating to 1991; the Rocks have won the other 11 championships.

“I was reffing that game,” St. X setter Peyton Byrne said. “I saw all of that game. It was brutal because we beat them twice and then we don’t beat them the one time that it counts. It just motivated me us to watch our backs. Even though we know we’re a good team, anything can happen any night.”

The two Catholic powerhouses used to be the only two schools that played in the area, but DeSales and Floyd Central joined the league this season.

The Tigers whipped Floyd Central 25-7, 25-11 in the first semifinal before the Rocks (9-7) took down the Colts 25-11, 25-13 in the second one.

It was a great way for the Tigers (19-4) to end their season as Lotze had never won this many matches in his six seasons as head coach.

Byrne, a 6-foot-5 senior setter for St. X, had few issues with the much smaller and inexperienced Shamrocks.

“It can be frustrating to coach against him at times,” Trinity head coach Richard Weaver said with a laugh. “You look at your roster size and then see him at 6-foot-5. He’s a great setter and he pushes his arms as high as he can. It’s frustrating, but we try and find ways to work around him. He’s a heck of a player and one of the best I’ve ever coached against.”

Lotze proclaimed Byrne as the captain of the Tigers.

“Peyton is the leader,” Lotze said. “He has done a nice job of taking that responsibility after his sophomore year. Two years ago he was around a great group of guys and was the understudy of Anthony Campisano. It took some time, but Peyton has taken ownership of the program.”

Byrne dished out 19 assists and had three kills against Trinity.

“Our passing is great,” Byrne said. “For the most part our passing is fantastic. It makes my job a lot easier and then my hitters are able to get their kills.”

St. X outside hitter Robby Cox led all players with five aces and eight kills. Fellow outside hitter Adam Schweitzer had seven of the Tigers’ 31 kills.

“Peyton Byrne allows our frontcourt to dominate,” Schweitzer said. “He’s tall in the front row and he is able to set us up and allows us to take care of business.”

Kyle Barnett and Sam Bincoe added four kills apiece.

Matt Hess led the Rocks with six of their 14 kills while Ryan Gatewood added five.

“We had a lot of seniors in number, but the difference was that a lot of our seniors had never played club ball or varsity level until this year,” Weaver said. “We were asking a lot out of them. Maturity level, we were there; experience-wise, we weren’t. But you know, like I told them, for where we’ve come from a few months to where we are now, the score and fight you saw were night and day. We started the season 1-6 and we finished with a winning record. I couldn’t be more proud of this group.”

Cox helped the Tigers storm out of the gates by firing six aces to start the match. Trinity never got any closer than four points the rest of the way in the first game.

“I went in there knowing that some of those guys were playing in their first state championship,” Cox said. “I put the ball in play and kept them moving around with my jump serve. It gave us some adrenaline and that can go a long way.”

Things were much different in the second game as the Rocks built a10-4 lead. The Tigers trailed 15-11 but fought back with a 7-0 run to take an 18-15 edge.

Trinity rallied to tied it at 19 before the Tigers broke away from a 21-all tie with a Cox kill and went on to take a 2-0 lead in games.

St. X fell behind early in the third game but completely dominated after tying the game at 3 and went on a 22-5 run to ice the match.

“They have great heart and great effort,” Lotze said. “But the best part about this group is their passing. We make it so easy for Peyton to set because we pass the ball and we set him up perfectly.”

 

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