Lady Aces look to keep momentum

Photo by Alan Warren, Messenger-Inquirer | awarren@messenger-inquirer.com Owensboro Catholic's Madeline Castlen spikes against Muhlenberg County's Daisy Ritchie during the 3rd Region Volleyball Tournament at Hancock County.

Owensboro Catholic, a proud program and resilient team that simply refused to fold in 2019, now gets the chance to show its stuff in the KHSAA State Volleyball Tournament, which begins today at Valley High School in Louisville.

The Lady Aces, who started the season 2-4, will take a 26-10 mark into their 4 p.m. (CT) first-round clash with 10th Region champion Campbell County (20-15).

Catholic is coming off one of the most memorable victories in program history, a wild five-set upset of defending champion Breckinridge County in the 3rd Region Tournament championship game Oct. 31 at Hancock County High School.

"I want the mindset of our players to stay right where it's at," OCHS Brian Hardison said. "We showed great fight and determination against a really outstanding Breck County team, and we need to have that to be successful at state, as well.

"These girls have stuck with the plan to reach their goals -- to be number one in the (9th) district, to be number one in the region, and to go to the state tournament. They've hung in there and done what it's taken to win championships."

The Lady Aces are led by 3rd Region Player of the Year Cassidy Towery (350 kills, 45 blocks, 62 assists, 109 digs, 54 aces) and two-time 9th District Player of the Year Cecilia Clemens (123 kills, 61 blocks, 957 assists, 64 digs, 44 aces).

Also expected to start for Catholic will be Isabelle Wright (295 kills, 36 blocks, 111 digs, 17 aces), Madeline Castlen (205 kills, 36 blocks, 28 digs, 28 aces), Jenna Glenn (212 digs, 23 aces), and Jayden Bickett (97 digs).

Top players off the bench are Cate Sites (167 kills, 68 blocks, 12 aces) and Allie Hamilton (75 kills, 34 blocks, 27 assists, 35 digs, 19 aces).

Campbell County is also a bit of a comeback story this season.

The Camels were just 12-15 before embarking on their current eight-match winning streak, which included a three-set victory over Scott for the regional championship at Harrison County High School.

Campbell County is led by Rylee McKinney (321 kills, 32 blocks, 70 aces), Olivia Crowl (329 kills, 130 blocks), Kasey Martin (227 kills, 123 blocks, 166 digs), Hope Russell (132 kills, 55 blocks, 234 digs, 13 aces), and Ella Schloemer (860 assists, 299 digs, 41 aces).

"They have some big hitters up front and their setter is solid," Hardison said. "Our defense will be key -- we need to block well in this one. Being able to put our plays together, being able to outrun them will also be important.

"We're focused completely on Campbell County going into this thing."

Owensboro Catholic is making its first state tournament appearance since 2015, when the Lady Aces won three matches to reach the championship game.

Traditional national power Louisville Assumption is the defending KHSAA state champion.

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