The venue for this yearâ€™s state volleyball tournament may be different and new, but the presumptive favorite remains tried-and-true.
Top-ranked Assumption (37-2) downed No. 3 Sacred Heart 25-16, 26-24, 25-23 in the Seventh Region final last week and will enter first-round play Friday at Valleyâ€™s new J.C. Cantrell Gymnasium as the team to beat.
Bellarmineâ€™s Knights Hall was the tournament site in 2010 and 2011.
It was the third consecutive regional title for the Rockets, who finished the regular season undefeated against in-state competition for the second straight year. Assumption has not fallen to a Kentucky opponent since a five-set home loss to Mercy on Sept. 7, 2010.
â€œWeâ€™ve been in some pretty tight spots all year and theyâ€™ve somehow found a way to get out of them,â€ said Assumption coach Ron Kordes, whose squad is ranked No. 3 nationally by PrepVolleyball.com.
The Rockets are seeking a third-straight state title â€“ 17th overall â€“ and are battle-tested after a rigorous regular season schedule in which they took second at the Durango Fall Classic in Las Vegas and won the Asics Challenge in Chicago.
Assumptionâ€™s two losses came to highly regarded Torrey Pines (Calif.) in the championship game at Durango and at the Nfinity Battle on the Plains.
According to Kordes, consistency within matches has been an issue for much of the season. â€œIâ€™ve said all year long, weâ€™ve got two different teams out here. Fortunatelyâ€¦ the best team shows up at the right time.â€
Among the many weapons Assumption boasts up front are high-rising opposite hitter Alyssa Cavanaugh (5-foot-10, Jr.) and powerful 6-foot-3 middle Taylor Paulson, a senior Saint Louis commit. The two combined for 18 kills in the regional final.
Assumption begins its bid for a three-peat with an opening-round match against Henderson County Friday at 11:30 a.m.
No. 5 Mercy will represent the Sixth Region for the 10th straight year after dispatching Whitefield Academy 25-13, 27-25, 25-20 in the regional final. The Jaguars (30-9) are led by junior Courtney Crable, a 6-foot-1 outside hitter who has committed to Auburn.
Mercy takes on No. 25 Southwestern Friday at 7 p.m.
No. 15 North Oldham downed Simon Kenton 25-7, 26-28, 25-15, 25-21 to win the Eighth Region. The Mustangs (28-10) will face No. 17 Central Hardin at 4 p.m. Friday.
Fridayâ€™s first round:
Corbin (29-8) vs. No. 13 Lone Oak (35-4), 10 a.m.
No. 1 Assumption (37-2) vs. Henderson County (34-5), 11:30 a.m.
Russell (28-12) vs. No. 6 Henry Clay (23-16), 1 p.m.
Allen Central (32-5) vs. No. 23 Greenwood (20-19), 2:30 p.m.
No. 17 Central Hardin (36-4) vs. No. 15 North Oldham (28-10), 4 p.m.
No. 20 Owensboro Catholic (29-10) vs. Campbell County (21-13), 5:30 p.m.
No. 25 Southwestern (29-10) vs. No. 5 Mercy (30-9), 7 p.m.
Letcher County Central (30-6) vs. No. 2 Notre Dame (33-7), 8:30 p.m.
Quarterfinals, 9 a.m., 10:30 a.m., noon and 1:30 p.m.
Semifinals, 3 and 4:30 p.m.
Final, 8 p.m.
Sixteen regional champions were crowned in both boysâ€™ and girlsâ€™ soccer last week. Hereâ€™s how Louisville-area regions were decided:
- Abdikadir Husseinâ€™s goal with 17 seconds left in the first half was all Fern Creek needed to nip Fairdale 1-0 in the Sixth Region Tournament final. Fairdale finished its season 16-3-3.
- Senior defender Kaelon Fox notched two goals and No. 1 St. X (23-0-2 entering this week) topped No. 3 Trinity 2-0 in the seventh region final. The win extended the Tigersâ€™ unbeaten streak to 51 games. Trinity finished with a record of 20-2-1.
- Goals from senior Nathan Ball and junior Davis Ferriell pushed South Oldham past rival Oldham County 2-0 in the Eighth Region Tournament final.
Winners of Tuesdayâ€™s semi-state matches advanced to this Saturdayâ€™s quarterfinals at Henry Clay High in Lexington. Semifinals are Thursday, Nov. 1, at Paul Dunbar High in Lexington and the final (also at Paul Dunbar) will be Saturday, Nov. 3 at 7 p.m.
- Senior forward Kayla Richardson recorded a hat trick and Mercy bounced Bullitt East 5-0 at Holy Cross on Oct. 18 to win the Sixth Region Tournament. It was the Jaguarsâ€™ first regional soccer title in school history. Kaitlyn Golab and Courtney Anderson, both seniors, added a goal apiece for Mercy.
- Morgan Riggsâ€™ dead-on strike from 19 yards out clanged in off the left post with 15:18 remaining in the opening half and No. 4 Assumption held on to edge No. 10 Christian Academy 1-0 in the Seventh Region final at Manual Stadium on Oct. 20. It was the Rocketsâ€™ first regional crown since 2005 after falling to Sacred Heart in the regional championship the past six seasons.
Assumption eliminated the sixth-ranked Valkyries 3-1 in the semifinals.
- After being knotted 1-1 at the end of overtime, No. 9 Oldham County prevailed over South Oldham 4-1 in a penalty kick shootout to win the Eighth Region. The Lady Colonels got a huge boost from senior goalkeeper and Tournament MVP Brittany Moshos, who saved two penalties.
Winners of Mondayâ€™s semi-state matches advanced to this Saturdayâ€™s quarterfinals at Lafayette High in Lexington. Semifinals will be held Wednesday, Oct. 31, at Paul Dunbar and the final (also at Paul Dunbar) is set for Saturday, Nov. 3, at 5 p.m.
Contact columnist Chris Cahill at email@example.com.