With the size and experience advantage, Conner took no chances in sweeping Cooper on Tuesday night in the 33rd District volleyball rivalry contest.
The Cougars took out the Jaguars, 3-0 (25-12, 25-9, 25-22) to make sure the game did not extend and become more interesting. Cooper made the third set intriguing at 18-17, but Conner closed things out from there and securing the No. 2 seed in next month’s district tournament.
“I thought our girls came out with a lot of fire in their bellies to win, especially since it is a district rival,” said Douglas Rabe, Conner head coach. “Everyone played pretty gritty the first two games. In the third game, I still felt we were in control – just too many unforced errors, especially on our serves.”
Conner’s two senior 6-foot middle blockers Lilly Hamburg and Peyton Walker dominated the net, recording 15 and 12 kills, respectively, out of the team’s 46 kills, consistently hitting different angles and adjusting to Cooper’s blocking schemes. Walker and senior outside hitter Carly Nehus had two assisted blocks.
“Walker is one of those girls that I think can literally hit over the block,” Rabe said. “Then Lilly with her intellect hits away from the block or at least a little push away, especially if they’re playing deep. Lilly swings pretty hard throughout the game so (opponents) really back up on that perimeter. It gives (Hamburg) the opportunity just to sit there and control the ball, put it where the players are not.”
Conner (18-4) landed 16 aces to aid the cause. Bailey Morris and Maddie Leiprecht led the way with four each.
The Cougars got into a good rhythm with 50 digs and 44 assists. Morris and libero Anna Hamilton led the way defensively with 12 and 11 digs, respectively, setting things up for the setters. Aubrey Depenbrock and Jordan Ransdell put up 24 and 15 assists, respectively.
“We have to have good connections with everyone on the team no matter who we sub in and out for,” Ransdell said. “You can throw us out there with someone random and we would just connect really well because the team just works so great together all as one.”
After dominating the first two games, the third one went back-and-forth. Morris gave Conner the lead for good at 18-17 on an ace. But Cooper cut the lead to one four times before McKenzie Deatherage landed her eighth kill to end the game.
“We just have to push through,” Deatherage said. “We’ve been in tight situations like that. Our team just really comes together and we make it point-by-point. We’ve been working with each other for years and we all connect on a different level.”
Cooper (6-9) dug up 33 balls, but could not get going consistently recording 18 kills, 15 assists, five aces and three blocks. Audrey Schilling had 10 kills and eight digs and setter Sadie Smith had all 15 assists with libero Addy Warth recording eight digs and two aces.
“(The younger players) are getting there. That’s what we’re still developing. That’s what we were just talking about,” said Michelle Isaac, Cooper head coach. “We are getting better. We’re going to keep working. That’s all we can do.”
Conner plays at Newport (4-14) on Thursday at 7 p.m. Cooper plays in the Kentucky Challenge at Paul Laurence Dunbar on Friday and Saturday.