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County schools are set for volleyball sectionals tonight

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A return: Clinton Prairie’sHannah Wilson makes a return during a match earlier this year.
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dig this: Frankfort’s Ashley Timmons (5) makes a dig during a match against Southmont on Monday.
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Practice: Rossville freshmen Katie and Karie Taylor, bending for ball, worked on digs during practice Tuesday as they prepared for tonight’s sectional match with Clinton Prairie.
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spike: Clinton Central’sKaylea Whitcomb goes for a spike against Carroll during a match earlier this year.

BY ANDREW KRULL - akrull@ftimes.com

All four Clinton County high school volleyball teams begin sectional play tonight, with county rivals Clinton Prairie and Rossville squaring off, Frankfort hoping to avenge its first-round ouster from last year and Clinton Central facing a formidable task in playing one of the top teams in the state in Lafayette Central Catholic.

Each matchup is previewed below:

At Jefferson (Clinton Prairie High School)

Class 2A Sectional 38

Clinton Prairie v. Rossville

When: 6 p.m.

Clinton Prairie begins sectional play against county rival Rossville, with the Hornets coach placing the label of “favorite” on the host Gophers.

“Clinton Prairie is probably the favorite,” Rossville head coach Kathy Martin said. “We played Clinton Prairie earlier in the season and they took it to us.”

The two teams met on Sept. 27 at Rossville, with the Gophers only being challenged in one set as they won 25-10, 25-21, 25-10. Prairie senior Alyssa Lukasik recorded 20 kills in that match.

“Clinton Prairie is a good team, but we have our squad back,” Martin said, “so hopefully that will help us as we prepare for Prairie.”

She noted two Hornet players – Addie Cooper and Reanna Lowery – were injured for that match but played. They are healthy and ready for the sectional. The same can be said for Clinton Prairie.

“I’m getting all my starters back on the court,” Gophers head coach Angie Schilling said. “I know Rossville didn’t have all their players for the first match, so I’m expecting a good match.”

She added Prairie was down a player to injury and another to illness until recently, but “we got them both back in our tournament here on Saturday,” in which the Gophers took second winning three matches and falling to tournament champion Greencastle.

Schilling isn’t taking the label of sectional favorite bestowed by Martin as a given.

“It’s going to be one game at a time,” she said. “I just worry about Rossville because it’s a rivalry game, and they see each other all the time. They’re both going to be up for that.”

Seeger meets Delphi in the second match on Thursday, with the winner to play Carroll on Saturday at 12:30 p.m. The Clinton Prairie-Rossville winner will play Fountain Central in the other semi at 11 a.m., with the championship set for 7 p.m. Saturday.

“Fountain Central we don’t see during the season, so we don’t know what to expect from that,” Schilling said. “Carroll we did see earlier in the season, but it’s going to be a whole new ballgame.”

Martin also noted Carroll “has a good squad too. It’s a tough sectional, which is a good thing.”

Clinton Prairie brings an 18-15 record into the sectional, including winning 7 of their last 8 matches. Rossville is 9-14 entering the tournament.

The records for other teams in the sectional include Seeger, 14-13; Delphi, 7-15; Fountain Central, 2-20; and Carroll, 13-16.

At Russiaville (Western High School)

Class 3A Sectional 20

Frankfort v. Northwestern

When: 8 p.m.

Frankfort begins the state tournament facing the same team that put them out in the first round last year, Northwestern.

“It’s a great challenge,” head coach Kia Rushton said after a regular season ending win over Southmont on Monday. “We have to go out and play fearlessly.”

Last year, Northwestern topped Frankfort in the sectional semis (both teams received a bye) by a score of 25-11, 25-9, 25-23 on their way to winning the sectional by beating West Lafayette in four sets.

“We played very scared and on our heels last year in the first two sets, and then we made a game of it,” Rushton said.

She noted that this year’s squad has “everybody back” from last year when Frankfort had no seniors, with this year’s squad featuring five senior leaders who went through that match last year. She added that Northwestern did lose some players from last year’s squad, but still has weapons to be concerned with.

“They’re very good,” Rushton said. “They have a real strong hitter in Madison Layden, and it’s a team that knows how to win.”

Northwestern comes into the match with a 24-6 record, including winning 17 of their last 19 with one of those losses coming to state power Lafayette Central Catholic. Frankfort has an 18-11 record, winning five in a row including the Twin Lakes Invitational last Saturday and seven of their last eight.

Although not meeting in the regular season, the two squads faced 10 common opponents this year. Those include Maconaquah, Delphi, Western, West Lafayette, Carroll, Tipton, Clinton Central, Kokomo, Twin Lakes and Western.

Northwestern did not lose a match against those opponents going 11-0, dropping five sets. Frankfort went 8-4 against those opponents, with losses to Kokomo (twice), Western and Tipton. However, an example of improvement over the season could be seen in the Hot Dogs topping Western during Saturday’s Twin Lakes Invitational.

Peru (7-22) and Maconaquah (21-12) play in the first game of the sectional at 6 p.m. The winner would face West Lafayette (10-18) in the first semifinal on Saturday. The Frankfort-Northwestern winner will face Western (24-4) in the second semifinal at noon Saturday, with the championship slated for 6 p.m.

At Lafayette (Lafayette Central Catholic High School)

Class 1A Sectional 54

Clinton Central v. Lafayette Central Catholic

When: 7 p.m.

No county team received as difficult a sectional draw as Clinton Central, which faces undefeated and Class 1A number one ranked Lafayette Central Catholic in Thursday’s sectional. Oh, and the Knights host the sectional as well.

“I mean it’s a tough sectional,” Clinton Central head coach Lael Larrick said. “They’re an unbelievable team that have lost only five sets this year and are ranked number one in our class. They put the time in to be a successful program.”

Some could looke at facing Central Catholic (28-0) as a daunting task, but she sees the match as an opportunity to face a team providing a blueprint for the future.

“You can look at it in two ways, you’re getting a chance to see how they prepare and that they don’t just walk in expecting to win,” Larrick said. “It’s a program to look at and strive to be, so I think it will be good for our girls to get to play them.”

The Bulldoogs come into the contest with a 14-17 record, including 5-2 in the Hoosier Heartland Conference. She has seen improvement with her squad throughout the year.

“I think we have a lot to be proud of and have a lot to look forward to,” Larrick said. “No matter what happens on Thursday we need to continue to understand that we have a bright future.”

The winner of tonight’s second game will face 9-24 Tri-Central in the second semifinal on Saturday. Northfield (20-7) and Southwood (10-19) play in the first game tonight, with the winner to face Frontier (17-8) in the first semifinal on Saturday. The championship is scheduled for 7 p.m. Saturday.