Back On Top: Greenwood cruises to reclaim 4th Region title
FRANKLIN — Oh, so sweet was the rematch for Greenwood.
Last season, the Lady Gators won both regular season meetings and the 14th District Championship over South Warren, only to fall to the Lady Spartans in the 4th Region Championship.
This season, facing the same situation, Greenwood finished the job.
The Lady Gators fought through a tough first set to take a 3-0 sweep (28-26, 25-21, 25-11) of South Warren for the in Thursday evening’s 4th Region Volleyball Championship at Franklin-Simpson, the Lady Gators’ first region title since 2016.
With the first set opening up with a 5-1 South Warren lead and going on to be determined by four set points, the Lady Gators had some butterflies that needed shaking off.
“Obviously, playing South Warren, period, is nerve wracking. They’re a great team,” Greenwood senior setter Julia Kennedy said. “History repeating itself was on all of our minds. We were all freaking out about it there for a while.”
Kennedy’s fears were justified when South Warren (24-11) held a 17-14 lead in the first set before Greenwood came back to win the set, 28-26, in a slugfest that had all indications of sending the match to five sets.
“I felt like we really battled in that first set,” South Warren head coach Justin Griffin said. “I thought that maybe if we could’ve gotten that first set, it could’ve been a whole different match. [Greenwood] is a good team. I’m proud of our kids; we battled all night.”
The Lady Spartans came back from a 20-14 deficit in the second set to cut the Greenwood lead to 23-21, but the Lady Gators closed out the set from there before winning the next set over the defending region champions in dominating fashion, 25-11, giving first-year head coach Allen Whittinghill his first region title.
“It was a lot of fun,” Whittinghill said. “I thought coming into this match that we had a good group and that we had to get over [last year’s result]. You could tell when we were in those extra points in the first game, we looked like we just weren’t going to lose.”
- VIDEO: South Warren head coach Justin Griffin
- VIDEO: Greenwood head coach Allen Whittinghill
- VIDEO: Greenwood’s Annee Lasley
- VIDEO: Greenwood’s Julia Kennedy
Greenwood’s Annee Lasley was named the tournament MVP and had 16 kills on the evening. Sophomore Katie Howard led the Lady Gators with 21 kills while Emmie Bender added 10. Kennedy notched 53 assists.
“Julia was on fire tonight. Annee ended up being the MVP because she was unstoppable at the net. Our ball control really pushes us to that next level,” Whittinghill said.
Erin Nerland led South Warren with eight kills while also notching 35 assists.
“I think that the future should be pretty good for [the Lady Spartans],” Griffin said. “Hopefully we can add some more good players onto this team and be able to compete for many years to come.”
No cakewalks for Greenwood
With the win, Greenwood (35-5) earns a trip to play Rowan County – champions of the 16th Region – in the first round of the KHSAA Volleyball State Tournament next Friday at 2:00 pm EST at Valley Traditional High School in Louisville.
“I feel like we’re slowing getting more healthy. I feel like we’ve finally had our offense clicking the last two nights,” Whittinghill said. “We will probably take off and start practicing next week and go in and try to win a state tournament game.”
Rowan County earned a trip to the state tournament with a 3-0 sweep of Boyd County.
The obstacles that the Lady Gators will face in the state tournament go far beyond the 16th Region champions.
To date, a public school has never won a state title in Kentucky – a state dominated by private schools that have been recognized in the national rankings, such as top-ranked Assumption and 14th-ranked Louisville Mercy Academy.
“The state tournament is all about the private schools. We just have to go in and do our best to shock somebody,” Whittinghill said.
Clay Manlove; @ctmanlove58