November 5th, 2017

Assumption wins 20th state title

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Paul Najjar

Senior Writer

Assumption wins 20th state title
Assumption wins its 20th state volleyball championship

The old sports adage states that defense wins championships. In volleyball, defense begins with a block and a dig and ends with a big, point-winning smash from the offense.

The No. 1-ranked Assumption Rockets used that recipe, plus a heaping helping of 6-foot-3 middle blocker Rylee Rader to win its 20th KHSAA state volleyball title 25-22, 25-18, 25-22 over the No. 2-ranked Mercy Jaguars Sunday afternoon at Valley’s J.C. Cantrell Gymnasium.

Just a sophomore, Rader had her long reach impacting all over this contest finishing with a match-high 17 kills and 5 blocks while hitting a scorching .552 percentage. She had seven kills in the first set and five in the next two and put away the final point of the match on a quick set out of the middle.

It was a fitting end to an outstanding competition between the two best teams in the state.

“I had some concerns about our inexperience and had some sleepless nights, but it was great to see how well the girls played today from beginning to end,” Assumption head coach Ron Kordes said. “We knew we had an advantage with Rader if we could get the ball to her. Mercy’s such a good team and we knew they’d make runs all match, but we tell the girls that if you panic, you lose. I was really impressed with our poise and composure throughout.”

The Rockets needed that in facing the formidable triumvirate of Mercy’s Neci Harris, Jayme Scott and Emma Schurfranz. Those three have lit-up opponents all year and while they delivered a combined 32 kills, they were able to connect on only 32 of 84 attempts with 12 attack errors (a .238 percentage). 

“Our block was really strong tonight, but our defense was outstanding,” Rader said. “We were able to get them out of system a little bit with our serve and defense did a great job reading their hitters all night.”

Indeed, Assumption libero Payton Frederick (18 digs) and defensive specialist Karly Basham (8) teamed up to thwart the big Mercy trio at critical moments of the match.

“We worked a lot on reading their different types of shots and their back row attack,” Frederick, a Western Kentucky commit, said. “We knew if we could dig a few that they’d start tipping and rolling shots and that played to our advantage. Our block did a great job all night.”

Rader led the Assumption attack from the opening serve with a massive first set. The Rockets looked to her and she delivered seven kills and two stuff blocks setting the tone for the rest of the title tilt.

And though the Jaguars (36-7) fought back to within one point at 23-22, a Rader kill followed by a dump kill from setter Camille Nazor closed out the first set win for the Rockets. Nazor and Frederick were All-Tournament team selections for Assumption, while Rader was named MVP of the tournament.

“We had a good game plan and executed really well for most of the game,” Mercy head coach Matt Thomerson said. “When we had the right matchups we were winning, but we’re a little undersized at a couple of spots and they took advantage of that. We fought hard and our kids did a great job.”

With the big swings coming from Ohio State verbal commit Rader, Louisville verbal commit sophomore Anna DeBeer and senior Georgia Tech commit Kayla Kaiser, Assumption had been used to scoring pretty much at will against most opponents. Though the Mercy defense held DeBeer to 10 kills and a meager .167 hitting percentage, it was the veteran Kaiser who came through with eight kills on 16 attacks with only one error.

“Rylee and I have worked so well together for the last two years and in club season,” Nazor, a Duke commit who had 40 assists, said. “And Kayla was really on tonight. She had a little extra on some of her attacks and that was great to see for all of us.”

The Mercy defense rang up 60 digs with libero Lauren Tharp, a Kentucky commit, recording 20 of them. Defensive specialist Sydney Colvin added 10 and freshman setter Elena Scott added 12 to go with 31 assists. Their defense kept points alive by sure will and incredible effort. Harris, Scott and Tharp were Mercy's selections to the All-Tournament team.

“Everyone on this team expected to be here and we did a great job of focusing on our game and playing the best that we could,” Tharp said. “We watched so much film and we were in great position for most of the game. At times they just overpowered us, but we gave a great effort and committed to each other in trying to stop their attack.”

Assumption (40-3) hit at a .317 percentage for the match compared to Mercy’s .254. The Rockets recorded nine blocks to Mercy’s four, a testament to Rader’s long reach and the size advantage enjoyed by Assumption.

Rockets senior Bailey Roszman and junior Mary Ann O’Toole added six kills each for the victors while Mercy sophomore Caitlyn Carpenter put down seven and senior Brittany Sortor notched six in defeat.

Kordes’ squad will end up among the top five teams in the nation after winning the Durango (Las Vegas) Fall Classic tournament and coming in second in the LIVT and Asics Challenge (Chicago) tournaments.

But what this team will remember most is that they earned the program’s 20th state title, just a day after the school’s first title team from 1992 was honored on the 25th anniversary of their win. Kordes’ daughter Ann was the setter on that team and now sits next to her dad as an assistant coach.

“I told them in the locker room that that could be you 25 years from now,” the head coach Kordes said. “I said if I can’t make it, go without me. It’s memories for a lifetime.”

For Kordes, it’s now 20 title memories and counting. 


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