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North Oldham volleyball set for state

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By Sam Draut

There is plenty of familiarity for North Oldham volleyball as it prepares for its fifth straight state tournament. The Lady Mustangs play St. Henry in the first round of the KHSAA state tournament Oct. 26 at 11 a.m. hosted by Valley High School in Louisville.

North Oldham coach Kayla Koerber thinks the previous experience and maturity helps the Lady Mustangs at the state tournament.

“We aren’t that green team that has never been here before,” Koerber said. “It’s no one’s true first experience.”

The Path to State

North Oldham (21-7) started the season by winning 10 of its first 11 matches. The Lady Mustangs defeated Oldham County in the District 29 final in straight sets for their eighth straight district title.

After sweeping Spencer County and Simon Kenton in the regional tournament, North Oldham topped Oldham County in four sets (18-25, 25-13, 25-19, 25-22) in the Eighth Region final.

St. Henry (31-9) won the District 34 title to advance to the Ninth Region tournament last week. The Crusaders swept Holy Cross (Covington) in the quarterfinals before beating Cooper in four sets to advance to the regional final.

St. Henry defeated Notre Dame in five sets (25-22, 19-25, 22-25, 25-19, 15-7) to win the Ninth Region title to seal a spot in the state tournament for the second straight season.

The Lady Mustang Rotation

North Oldham has featured a diverse offensive attack this season as setter Brie Postema (693 assists) spreads the ball to different hitters. Led by 282 kills from Addison Foote, seven Lady Mustangs have tallied 50 or more kills.

Along with Foote, outside hitters Meredith Kovarovic (136 kills, 134 digs) and Jordan Atchison (118 digs, 183 receptions) help complete North Oldham’s rotation. Hannah McGill (99 kills) counters opposite of the outside hitters as a left-handed right side hitter.

Olivia Roberts (145 kills, 69 blocks) and Ryan Bucher (78 kills, 47 blocks) work around the net as middle blockers.

Karly McNeil (268 receptions, 253 digs) and Madison Junion (261 receptions, 250 digs) roam North Oldham’s back row as a libero and defensive specialist.

North Oldham hopes to find a rhythm offensively against St. Henry early in the match.

“We have really looked at their defense and how they block,” Postema said. “We are going to look for open shots and work around them.”

Learning the Opponent

St. Henry’s Maria Tobergte, a University of Cincinnati commit, is one of the best outside hitters in the state. Koerber said the Lady Mustangs will try to hone in on Tobergte from a defensive standpoint.

“She is awesome,” Koerber said. “She is a really strong outside hitter.”

Along with Tobergte, Koerber said St. Henry has an aggressive setter in senior Bridget Bessler that reminds her of Postema.

“Thinking about our own knowledge of Brie, what works against Brie and what doesn’t work against her can help the offensive objects,” Koerber said.

St. Henry, ranked in the top-10 throughout the season, represents a much tougher test for North Oldham than in previous years. The Lady Mustangs have won in straight sets in the opening round of Koerber’s first two seasons at North Oldham.

“It is a tougher team than we have had in the first round,” Postema said. “It will be more challenging, but when we play a bad team in the first round it’s kind of a shock in the second round because the next team is way better.”

The Lady Mustangs expect St. Henry to serve low, which puts pressure on North Oldham’s front row if the serves deflect off the net.

“We have to be ready,” Roberts said. “I am always usually going back in transition.”

Though seeing film on St. Henry helps, disrupting its offensive system won’t be determined until North Oldham gets on the court.

“We need to relax and trust our back row hitters,” McGill said. “I don’t think we will know anything until we get on the court with them.”

Mutual Opponents

North Oldham and St. Henry shared two mutual opponents from this fall.

Mercy topped St. Henry (25-13, 25-20) in the Louisville Volleyball Invitational Tournament Sept. 8 while the Jaguars defeated North Oldham (25-12, 25-12, 25-16) in Goshen Oct. 2.

Both teams swept Ryle in straight sets in September.

Resting Up

After playing five matches in 10 days, North Oldham had several days off before beginning practice this week in preparation for the state tournament.

With three nights of driving back and forth to Simon Kenton for the regional tournament last week, players admitted to being a little tired following the regional title.

“Giving them a physical and emotional break is really important, especially before going into state when you need them at their maximum potential,” Koerber said.

No School = Less Students

KHSAA moved the state tournament up one week this year because of the Breeders’ Cup hosted at Churchill Downs Nov. 2 and 3, which decreases North Oldham’s student section because Oldham County Public Schools is on fall break.

North Oldham has traditionally brought several hundred students to the match on Friday during school, but there won’t be as good of a turn out this time around.

“They [student section] always bring a lot of energy and pump us up,” Foote said. “We will have to do more that ourselves.”

Despite the diminishment of the boisterous student section, the team has been able to focus completely on volleyball during the week.

“It’s nice not having to balance volleyball with school for the state tournament,” Foote said.

Honoring Vince

Oldham County and the Louisville area volleyball community suffered a loss Oct. 21 with the passing of Oldham County coach Vince McDonough. He coached at Oldham County for seven years as well as coaching at Union Volleyball Club.

The Lady Mustangs will wear blue ribbons on their shoes in honor of McDonough. There will be a moment of silence before the match at 11 a.m. in memory of the coach.

Up Next

The state tournament is single-elimination, so the winner of North Oldham and St. Henry will face the winner of Corbin and McCracken County in the quarterfinals of the tournament Saturday Oct. 27 at 11:30 a.m.