For The Daily Reporter

INDIANAPOLIS — Coming into Saturday’s volleyball sectional, the New Palestine Dragons had a wealth of poise and confidence.

They showed it in their preparation and in their straight-sets semifinal victory against the Herron Achaeans 25-9, 25-14, 25-3.

That confidence was shaken in the sectional final against the Bishop Chatard Trojans, however, a team with a sub-.500 record but one with enough firepower to defeat the Dragons 25-23, 25-23, 25-18.

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Though they may have bent at times, the Dragons never broke, nor were they out of the match, having the Trojans on the ropes at several moments.

“Our attitude is to never give up, and I know that they’re never going to lay down and die,” New Palestine coach Kelli Whitaker stated. “We had Chatard up in Game 1 a couple of times, I don’t know if we lost confidence or felt that we couldn’t finish, but I felt we played really strong.”

The Dragons began each set winning the first point before trading scores with the Trojans the rest of the way. At times the offense struggled to get shots past the Trojans’ lengthy defenders who were relentless at the net.

Sophomores Allison Dennemann and Mia Long led the Dragon attack earning 14 and 13 kills, respectively. Dennemann also had eight digs and two electric blocks throughout the match.

The Trojan hitters proved difficult for the Dragons to defend. Every time New Palestine sent two blockers to the net they would finesse the ball right over but then come back next point and drill the ball.

“That’s what makes a good player, they’re smart, they see the double block and then they tip it,” Whitaker said. “Then we’re on our heels because we’re expecting that hard, driven shot down the line and they did a good job of mixing it up.”

Despite having only two seniors on the roster this season the Dragons never looked like a young team. Coach Whitaker knows she’ll have a lot of talent returning for next year but notes how much her seniors, Taylor Lawson and Katlyn Keele meant to this team.

“These seniors are incredible, so selfless, they put the team before themselves, and I think a lot of our success this year was because of our senior leadership,” Whitaker said. “This is the most positive team I’ve ever been around and a lot of that is due to what they brought to our team.”

With all of the returning talent, there is no reason not to expect to see the Dragons back at this point next season and ready to take the next step onto regional.

“I told the girls that I didn’t prepare a losing speech because I thought we were going to win,” Whitaker remarked. “We have unfinished now, so hopefully next year it will give us some firepower to work harder and get better.”