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Corydon Central off to positive start

Corydon Central off to positive start
Corydon Central off to positive start
Corydon Central’s Autum Anderson sends a ball over the net against Madison. Photo by Brian Smith
Brian Smith, Sports Editor, [email protected]

Corydon Central volleyball had a tough stretch from 2014 to 2017, winning two Mid-Southern Conference games during that span.

Turn the calendar to 2019 and the Lady Panthers are showing flashes of a resurgence. While Corydon Central upped its league-win total to four a season ago, the Lady Panthers are halfway to that mark less than two weeks into the current campaign.

Last Wednesday, Corydon Central welcomed a formidable foe in Madison out of the Hoosier Hills Conference. Each team brought plenty of powerful swings, last-second digs and grit to the floor in front of a sometimes rowdy bright neon student section.

Corydon Central showed great resolve in the opening game, outscoring Madison 17-3 down the stretch to win 25-23. The final four games, however, went the way of the visiting Lady Cubs, 25-17, 28-26, 25-12.

Despite the loss, the Lady Panthers sit at 4-4 overall with an unblemished MSC mark with victories over Charlestown and a five-setter at Eastern (Pekin).

“The biggest jump is the amount of talent that walked into the gym on Aug. 5; it’s a huge bonus for us,” Corydon Central coach Chrissy Tuchscherer said. “It’s a huge credit to what they’ve done in the offseason. We’ve had lots of weight-room work, playing club, lots of very committed volleyball players. We had huge numbers with volleyball workouts over the summer.”

The work is paying off as the Lady Panthers pushed Madison for much of three games.

“Taking these new teams that are coming into our sectional like Madison and Christian Academy and figuring out how we can play with them has been important,” Tuchscherer said. “Now we are thinking, how can we beat them? It wasn’t the way we wanted tonight to end up, but it was a good, solid game against a good Madison. I’d feel comfortable if we see them in sectional.”

In three of the four sets, Cory-
don Central found itself trailing in the early going. One of the biggest deficits of the night, eight points, was in the opener after Madison’s Chloe Preocanin smacked a kill for a 20-12 lead.

A service error by the Lady Cubs was soon followed by a Katie Fessel kill. Back-to-back Madison hitting errors brought Corydon Central within four points, 20-16.

Off a delicate back-set from sophomore Savannah Moberly, freshman Kimi Wolfe put down a thunderous kill. Moberly then was credit with a dig on the next ball, leading to another Wolfe winner. Steady at the service line, senior Jessie Johnson pumped in a knuckling ace. A kill from junior middle McKenzie Hess pushed Corydon Central all the way back to take a 21-20 lead.

Madison evened the score at 23-all, but a service error and a winner from Corydon Central sophomore Autum Anderson concluded the 17-3 run. The Lady Panthers minimized serving errors most of the night, having one in game one.

“The serving is an area we’ve improved,” Tuchscherer said. “Early in the season, the first few games, we had huge serving-error numbers. So, we made a rule of don’t miss so many and, if you make five in a row, the coaches will entice them with some candy. Five in a row is our goal, and a lot of girls have been hitting it. We hope to keep that momentum going.”

Corydon Central failed to take the momentum to game two. The Lady Panthers trailed 5-0 at the start when Preocanin notched a winning kill and block. Momentum continued to swing Madison’s way with a solo block by Paige Young to go up 14-3.

A modest 7-2 Corydon Central run in the game brought them back within six at one point but no closer.

“We got a little more motivated and came after them in game one,” Tuchscherer said. “We stayed motivated. In two-point victories, it sometimes comes down to balls falling in or they don’t. For us, they fell in during game one. We need to take that momentum into every other game. We tend to reset and start back at 0-0 and forgot about what happened in game one. When you win, you can’t forget how you won.”

Game three was a tense, back-and-forth affair. Neither team was able to get much separation on the scoreboard. Fessel and Johnson, two of Corydon Central’s three seniors along with Amaya Bryant, pumped in a combined three aces. A Wolfe winner was part of a three-point Corydon Central swing to put the Lady Panthers up 18-15.

From there, the game was tied at 18, 20, 21, 22, 24, 25 and 26. Johnson and Fessel combined for a block to give Corydon Central its second set-point opportunity at 26-25. Madison went to Preocanin, who closed with a game-best 13 kills, to win two of the next three points at the net.

Defensively, the Lady Panthers played poised, with libero Trystan Schreck in the mix for several digs.

“We have two boy managers that play a lot of volleyball, so we put them to work,” Tuchscherer said. “They swing against us so we can work on our coverages. It’s something we will need to continue to get better at to get our offense going.”

Game four took a similar route as the second as Madison scorched out to an 8-1 advantage and never looked back.

“This was our first mental break,” the Corydon Central coach said. “When you go up against some really good teams that are consistent like Madison, we have to be able to push by that and play our game. It was a little bit of a break down at the end.”

Anderson and Hess paced the Corydon Central offense with seven kills apiece. Wolfe notched seven, while Fessel contributed four. In all, eight different Lady Panthers registered kills.

“We have really good depth in different age groups,” Tuchscherer said. “We have freshmen to seniors out there every night. As coaches, we can say your skill is to hit and yours is to pass but never take away our secondary skills. Katie (Fessel) stays in the front row and puts down some good balls for us. When she comes out, we throw in (freshman) Audrey Oxley and don’t feel we miss. So, a senior for a freshman combo who is very talented is very beneficial for us.”

The leadership of Moberly at the setter role has helped the Lady Panthers find an offensive groove. Coach said she plays more like a fifth-year senior than a sophomore.

“Last year, we split her and ran a 6-2,” Tuchscherer said. “This year, she knew exactly where she fit in and has grown leaps and bounds. She is in that leadership role for a reason. She’s multi-talented.”

The motivation is still to compete for respect in the conference and eventually a challenging sectional.

“Right now, we are sitting 2-0 in conference and it makes us look back a couple years ago when we haven’t been able to win conference games. That’s been a big motivator for us,” Tuchscherer said.