Hardin Park takes tournament championship
by Steve Behr Sports Editor
Hardin Park's volleyball team is no stranger to playing in the middle school tournament championship match. Winning it is a different story.
The Eagles have been runner up four of the past five years, but that all changed Monday night at Lentz-Eggers Gym. Hardin Park kicked down the door that has kept them from being tournament champs in the past by beating rival Green Valley 2-0.
Hardin Park won the first set 25-15, and then held off a game-long Green Valley comeback to win the second set 25-23. The victory was Hardin Park's 16th straight after losing its first, and only match of the season, to Green Valley on opening day.
Hardin Park (16-1) was the only team to beat Green Valley (15-2) this season. The teams tied for the regular-season championship by beating each other at their respective home sites. Hardin Park was awarded the No. 1 seed for the tournament, and Green Valley was the No. 2 seed.
“Finally, after 13 years of coaching,” Hardin Park coach Andy Eggers said. “We finally got it done. The girls played well tonight.”
Hardin Park leaned on the power of its top hitters Brynne Gould, Katherine Stapleton and Alli Brown to provide some offensive firepower. Helping them was setters Reina Marze and Allison Quinn, and backline player Katie Patton.
The three hitters, plus consistent serving, kept the pressure on Green Valley's defense.
“We want to set the majority of the plays to Katherine or Alli or Brynne,” Eggers said. “If we can do that, then we can be successful and we were.”
Even with that pressure, Green Valley often came back with its own offense consisting of Savannah Rushing setting, and hitters Taylor McCune and Amber Parker.
Green Valley libero Lyndsey Aldridge provided offense with serving and accurate backline kills. Julia Parsons and Emily Steinbacher provided backline digs.
Hardin Park also put pressure on Green Valley by taking early leads in both sets. Hardin Park jumped out to a 5-0 lead in the first set, and increased it to a surprising 16-4 advantage. Green Valley made a run at Hardin Park by closing to 17-9, but never got closer.
Green Valley was forced to make another comeback in the second set after Hardin Park claimed an 8-2 lead. Throughout the set, Green Valley inched closer until a Hardin Park error on a kill attempt pulled Green Valley to 22-21.
“When they started really feeling it, and feeling like they could win, we started playing hard,” Green Valley coach Tracy Aldridge said. “I just called a timeout and reminded them they were a better team than they were showing.”
Both teams scored points before Gould connected on a kill to put Hardin Park in front 24-22. A Green Valley serving error provided Hardin Park the final point needed for a second-set win.
We wanted to jump on them early and then just keep hammering them down,” Eggers said.
Both teams won their semifinal matches in straight sets. Hardin Park beat Mabel 25-13, 25-12, while Green Valley beat Valle Crucis 25-14, 25-16.