When the final point dropped in favor of Scott McQueen's
volleyball team, concluding last Tuesday's 25-21, 25-14, 25-10 win over Martinsville in a Class 4A Regional championship match, the Orioles were finally granted a shot at redemption.
After losing to Muncie Central in the first round of the semistates a year ago, McQueen thought maybe his Orioles let one get away. Now he has a squad that is one win away from an IHSAA 4A state title and undefeated season.MaxPreps Indiana girls volleyball playoff brackets
"I think it pretty much motivated the girls," McQueen said about that season-ending loss. "We kind of let an opportunity get away from us last year. But we brought back just about our entire volleyball team and we've added three very good freshmen. We are capable of playing any style that we need to to win. We have good blockers, we have good hitters and we are a very sound ball-control team."
Setter Madi Reeves
saw the lost opportunity as well.
"We had prepared," she said. "And we could have played better. We didn't come out strong. We didn't play to our potential."
While the 5-foot, 8-inch senior Reeves agreed with McQueen in regards to the disappointing Oriole loss, fellow senior Jill Steinmetz
was just plain irritated.
"I hate to lose," the 6-1 middle blocker said. "I hated it that (the loss) ended our season. I realize that every season has to end at some point. I was just bummed that our season ended there."
Last season's loss to the eventual runner-up has McQueen leaving no stone unturned in 2011. When he says the Orioles are taking the rest of the season one match at a time, it isn't coach speak. He means it.
"We're taking this one step at a time," McQueen said before last Tuesday's win. "The way we are looking at it is everybody is undefeated now and it doesn't matter what their record was during the regular season. Everybody is looking to finish 7-0. Everybody is hoping they will get a chance to play one more time."
Playing in Class 4A, Indiana's largest volleyball classification, McQueen's strategy has worked to date. Avon, 39-0 and ranked third in the latest MaxPreps Xcellent 25 volleyball rankings
, is all set to battle 38-1 Penn (Mishawaka, Ind.) in Saturday's title match.
McQueen, 278-76 in his 10th season at Avon, has the horses to win an elusive state title with Reeves and Steinmetz leading the charge.
"I think our ultimate goal is to win the state championship," Reeves said. "I don't believe we will ever be satisfied if we don't. This season has been a lot of fun. We've worked really hard in the gym. We're proud of what we've accomplished but we have to continue to work to get better."
Reeves leads the Orioles with 829 set assists this season and sits second on the team with 59 serving aces. Steinmetz has demonstrated her need to play the net after knocking down 184 kills so far this season and blocking 50 enemy attacks.
Senior Katie Higginbotham
, a 5-11 outside hitter has now belted 327 kills during the 2011 volleyball season and is credited for bringing up 257 digs. She is second on the team in serves received with 424 and has thrown 44 ace serves at Oriole opposition.Liz Neibert
, a 5-10 senior outside hitter, was set to return to the starting lineup as well. But a torn ACL in the offseason ended her final campaign prematurely.
Senior Libero Alli Bexell
(5-7) has swatted 60 ace serves and has been credited with 405 digs and 463 serve receives. Six-foot senior middle hitter Emily Graves
has chipped in 164 kills and 58 blocks this season.
Right side hitter Kayla Springer
, a 5-10 junior, has 120 kills while Rebekah Strange
has received 273 serves and is credited with 81 service aces.Rachel Griffin
, a 5-10 sophomore setter, will spell Reeves when needed, while 5-8 senior outside hitter Emily Young
is expected to net playing time as well. Rachel McKinney
, Lindsay Thompson
and Shelby Connors
are all top returnees as well.
Freshman outside hitters Beth Prince
(6-3), Calle Weddle
(6-1) and Brooke Peters
(5-8) are set to fill their roles. Prince is the team leader in kills with 442 in 2011.
"For my first year, this has been absolutely great," Prince said as her rookie season winds down. "As a freshman, it was kind of scary at first. But the upperclassmen have been great. They welcomed us as part of the team. Obviously going undefeated has been great."
Steinmetz described this season's Oriole volleyball squad as one that will never quit on a play.
"We do everything well," she said. "Our strengths are very strong, while our weaknesses can be covered up with other strengths. We are scrappy and resilient. We are so competitive, we're not going to give any game away."
Earlier this season, Avon's perfect season was in jeopardy during a match against Carmel (Ind.). The Orioles fell behind 2-0 before rallying for the win.
"We just had to realize, 'OK, we're not perfect," Steinmetz said. "They were executing. We just had to start stepping up and making plays like we know how to make plays. We started to take away what they were doing. Volleyball is such a momentum game. You cannot get down as a team, and if somebody does the rest of us have to pick them up."