Team chemistry made the difference for the Hamilton Southeastern High School volleyball team
“We have a talented group of girls, but we beat teams where kids signed to go at much bigger universities,” Royals coach Jason Young said. “I just think team-first approach was what carried us.”
The Class 4A No. 4 Royals (29-5) won 16 consecutive matches before falling to No. 1 New Castle in four games Nov. 9 in the Class 4A state championship match in Muncie. It was Hamilton Southeastern’s first appearance in the state title game. The Royals had reached the semistate in 2015. New Castle (35-1) had won two consecutive Class 3A state titles before moving up to 4A.
HSE won the first set before dropping the next three. New Castle had swept the Royals in three sets Aug 21. This one was much closer.
“The third set we had a 23-21 lead, but unfortunately they made some great plays and we weren’t able to close out that set,” Young said. “If we had gotten that set, I think it obviously would have given us a 2-1 set advantage and given us a chance to win the fourth or fifth set.”
The Royals had five seniors, five juniors and two sophomores.
“The seniors set the tone in terms of it was going to be a very selfless team,” Young said. “It wasn’t about the role they had on the team, it was about how could they play their part in helping us win. The synergy of the whole program was good all year long. It makes it easier to push toward the end goal when everyone is on board.”
The Royals ran a 4-2 scheme with four hitters.
“It was a trade-off of offense for defense,” Young said. “We wanted to be defensively the best team in the state. We felt we had the pieces to do that. It took a while for that offense to jell, for them to get all the pieces together and understand it. But we were playing more for the end of the year than the beginning of the year.”
Senior defensive specialist Lillian Leiner, who was named the 4A Mental Attitude Award winner, plans to play volleyball at Northern Kentucky.
“She’s been captain for two years and she’s an excellent softball player, too,” Young said.
Senior outside hitter Abby Weber, who was second on the team with 363 kills, will play for the University of Southern Indiana. Junior Carly Mills has made a commitment to Indiana University. Junior middle hitter Delaney Garner led the team in kills with 369.