NEW PALESTINE — Looking ahead has never been New Palestine’s game, but there were moments Monday night when the Dragons couldn’t help it.
On their home court against visiting Mooresville, the Dragons were kicking off a stretch of four matches in six days — all of them inside their house.
A 3-0 sweep versus the Pioneers (11-10) checked off the first W, but a key matchup Thursday evening wasn’t far from their minds.
At 15-3 on the season, the Class 4A Dragons welcome Hoosier Heritage Conference front-runner 3A New Castle (19-4, 4-0 HHC) this week before hosting their inaugural four-team New Palestine Invitational on Saturday.
New Palestine is 2-1 in the HHC, while New Castle is ranked No. 1 in 3A by Maxpreps, 12th overall in the state (regardless of class) by the Indiana High School Volleyball Coaches Association and third in 3A.
“We’re pretty antsy about Thursday because it’s a good match. We would like to get that one, but tonight we wanted to focus on our play and how we can improve ourselves,” New Palestine senior outside hitter Allison Dennemann said. “It’s going great so far. We’re meshing really well and we’re increasing our level of play every match.”
The Dragons showcased their efficiency against Mooresville, winning 25-10, 25-15, 25-15, for their third straight victory.
Dennemann had a team-high 14 kills and six aces, while fellow senior Mia Long drove home 13 kills.
Long, who surpassed 1,000 career kills against Pike two matches prior, added another milestone with seven digs to give her 1,001. She has 1,025 kills.
“She’s a beast,” said Dennemann, a University of Pacific recruit who has 1,926 kills and 1,186 digs in her career. “I’m so happy for her. That’s awesome.”
Long, a 6-foot outside hitter, played big around the net in preparation for Thursday, recording three block assists. She teamed with Dennemann for the final point against Mooresville and partnered with senior 6-0 Jordan Brittsan throughout the match.
Brittsan had two solo blocks, while Dennemann recorded three block assists. Lydia Jones finished with a team-leading 10 digs, followed by Rylie Sturgeon’s eight. Sturgeon posted six aces, including four straight in the second set. Freshman Jesi Hall, who stand 5-11, had three block assists.
“I thought our defense did a nice job and our serving was really good. We were able to mix it up a little bit more with our offense,” New Palestine head coach Kelli Whitaker said. “We’re really pumped up to play New Castle. We had a heartbreaker to Delta in five sets, and we played really well, so we’re kind of wanting to redeem ourselves and get that win against a top team in our conference and in the state. We’re looking forward to the matchup.”
The Dragons opened their HHC schedule with a 3-1 win against Greenfield-Central on Aug. 31 at home. They lost 3-2 to No. 5 3A Delta on the road a week ago before sweeping Pendleton Heights 3-0 last Thursday.
“It was a great match (against Delta), but we just couldn’t get those last two points,” Dennamann said. “We didn’t win, but it showed us the level we can play at because Delta and New Castle are very similar, very scrappy. Once we started playing at that level, we could see we could beat them.”
Their match with New Castle will be a challenge, especially with 6-3 setter Melani Shaffmaster running the show. A standout before her high school career even began, the sophomore verbally committed to Minnesota as an eighth-grader.
“She has been a three-time national champion in club. She’s an amazing and very rare volleyball player, but the thing is she has a little sister, who is a freshman outside hitter and she’s good, too,” Whitaker said.
With Long, Dennemann, junior setter Sydney Robertson, who had 27 assists Monday, and a deep and talented roster, the Dragons like their chances.
“The past four years, Mia and I have gotten more and comfortable with our play and with each other. We feed off of each so much,” Dennemann said.
“They’re a tough team, but we have some weapons, too,” Whitaker added. “It’s going to be a good game.”
New Palestine 3, Mooresville 0
New Palestine Notables
Kills: Allison Dennamann 14, Mia Long 13. Assists: Sydney Robertson 27. Digs: Lydia Jones 10, A. Dennamann 8, M. Long 7.