EH falls in sectional semifinals

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Eastern Hancock’s Kaitlyn Lowes sets the ball against Greenfield-Central in a match Thursday, Aug. 25. The Royals’ season came to an end Thursday in a sectional semifinal match against Triton Central.

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By Brady Extin | Daily Reporter

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CHARLOTTESVILLE — A familiar opponent for Eastern Hancock garnered the same results on Thursday night.

The Royals fell in three sets to Triton Central by set scores of 25-21, 25-22, 25-11 in a semifinal match of Eastern Hancock Class 2A Sectional 42 of the IHSAA Girls Volleyball State Tournament.

After losing to the Tigers 10 days ago in straight sets as well, the Royals knew they had plenty of time to strategize and make changes.

“We all watched game film to see what we could do differently, and believe it or not, we did do a lot of the stuff that we practiced this week,” Eastern Hancock head coach Cory Rainbolt said. “They are just a very strong team. They always have a great team, and they can kind of pick you apart where they want to.”

The changes Rainbolt and the team made were shown early in the first set when the Royals jumped out — behind the support of their home crowd — to a quick 4-0 lead.

The Tigers clawed their way back, but the Royals managed to hold the lead until a Triton Central kill gave them their first lead 13-12. From there, the set was all Tigers.

“The fun part about volleyball is it just kind of depends on the rotation you get in, and every once in a while there’s going to be that bad rotation that ends up hurting you and making a difference in the match,” Rainbolt said.

In the second set, the Royals again jumped out to a quick and early lead, this time behind the serve of senior Sydney Hayes. But again, they just couldn’t find the opening to pull away. The Tigers hung around and eventually took their first lead of the set 18-17, and a few unforced errors by the Royals was all they needed to put things away.

“I’m super proud of the girls. This last week at practice has been amazing. We had some fun with it, but we also worked hard,” Rainbolt said. “It’s great to see things that you worked on in practice done in the game. When you get to see that, you know we’re learning and getting better every day. You really can’t hope for any more.”

By set three, the energy the Royals had from playing in front of their home crowd was gone. In the blink of an eye, Triton Central jumped out to an 8-2 lead, and never let the Royals get any closer en route to the match-clinching win.

“I’m happy about our season. We were way above .500 which was awesome,” Rainbolt said. “I was really hoping to at least take a set off here at the sectional, but that’s kind of just the way the ball bounces sometimes.”

The Royals finished the season 17-14 and were fourth in the Mid-Eastern Conference.

“We had great senior leadership this year. I’m going to miss all my seniors a lot,” Rainbolt said. “Sydney played tough all year. She’s made a lot of a difference on the court for us. Ella Shaw was a great right side for us. But we’re still kind of young. We have a lot of underclassmen on the team that stepped up this year, which is huge for us.”