NEW PALESTINE — Kelli Whitaker will experience bigger wins in her high school coaching career. And Kim Wildman, like all coaches, will be dealt other tough volleyball losses.
Thursday night, though, the experiences by the first-year Hancock County head coaches couldn’t have been more extreme.
Whitaker, a New Palestine graduate in her first prep head coaching assignment, earned her inaugural conference victory as the Dragons swept Wildman’s Cougars 25-16, 25-21, 25-23.
New Palestine (5-4, 1-0 Hoosier Heritage Conference) finished the improbable shutout by rallying from 17-10 and 22-17 deficits in the final game.
“You always want to win and believe that you can, but you never want to take anything for granted,” said Whitaker, a former Indiana State volleyball standout. “And I think we showed that in the third game because we were down, but we didn’t stop and we kept pushing.
“And our girls were really hyped up about this game. We wanted it bad. And you could tell. I could tell.”
The Dragons were blanked 3-0 in this matchup a year ago, but a largely new group of spikers did their part Thursday to reverse the outcome. Sophomores Taylor Lawson, Megan Hawley and Katlyn Keele combined for 24 kills; senior Ellen Poetz and freshman Kara Morris totaled 19 assists; and senior leader Jamie Morris provided the defensive anchor with 30 digs.
Lawson had eight of her kills in the first two games, which featured second-half domination by the Dragons. G-C led the opener 12-11 and the middle game 13-11, only to watch the hosts pull in front. In the clincher, with the Dragons down 23-21, Hawley provided two kills and Poetz delivered two aces in NP’s final 4-0 blitz.