The Gilmour Lancers girls’ volleyball team’s quest to defend their Division II state title remains alive.
First, the Lancers swept Marengo Highland last Thursday night at Lexington High School then captured their third straight Division II regional title by sweeping Vermillion last Saturday afternoon.
“We have extremely hard-working kids that work and play hard all year round,” said coach Danny Coughlin. “I think it’s more of a credit to their work ethic and how athletic they are.”
Entering Thursday’s match against Marengo Highland, Coughlan said it would be one of the toughest challenges Gilmour faced this season.
It was a contested match in the first set with the score tied at 13-13. The Lancers were off to a slow start but Coughlin was not panicking. It was Gilmour’s standard procedure to take its time and use the first set to study its opponent.
It was a strategy used last year and it worked well considering the Lancers won their first Division II state championship.
Gilmour went on a 12-7 run to win the first set 25-21. The Fighting Scots took an early lead in the second set but Gilmour came back to hold a 13-9 advantage midway through the set. Although the Lancers had the lead, they were struggling to hold on because their hitters could not find a rhythm.
The seven-year coach decided to funnel the offense through standout outside hitter Kathryn Randorf. The 6-foot-1 senior totaled 50 attempts in the match to propel Gilmour to a 25-19 victory and the Lancers finished off Marengo Highland 25-19 in the third set.
The Northwestern commit recorded 22 kills, four aces, six digs and two blocks to sent Gilmour back to the regional finals.
“We’re lucky enough to have a player like Kathryn take 50 swings and score on half of them,” noted the seven-year coach. “I normally try and keep Kathryn’s attempts around 25 to 30. I don’t like her to take more than that in a game because I like to utilize our spread offense with all of the hitters we have.”
To get back to the final four, Gilmour needed to defeat Vermillion. The Sailors entered Saturday’s match having recorded their first undefeated season and district title in school history.
Vermillion had some momentum early holding a 13-12 lead midway through the first set.
“The Sailors came out loud and aggressive,” Coughlin said. “They played to win. They won 26 games in a row and I told the kids, they’re not coming in here to lose today having played the best possible volleyball that they could so we had to stop it.”
Gilmour figured out the Sailors’ rotations and went on a 12-4 run to win the first set 25-16. The Lancers kept the momentum going and held a 13-10 edge in the second set and went on to win it 25-20.
The Lancers raced out to a 17-13 lead in the third set but Vermillion was not going away quietly. It went on a brief surge to remain within striking distance 21-17.
“They were not going away,” said Coughlin. “They had a huge crowd. They traveled well. The gym was loud and was on their side. That tends to keep a team in the game when you have a crowd and team cheering sections like that.”
Gilmour kept its foot on the gas and put the Sailors away 25-21 to clinch its third straight regional crown.
The Lancers went back to their spread offense as all their hitters found their rhythm.
“We played significantly better on Saturday. Kathryn only took 26 swings which means we had the ability to move the ball around more,” Coughlin said. “We had a significantly better attacking day today than we did on Thursday which allowed us to set Kathryn less which is important.”
Coughlin admitted being concerned that the Lancers would not have the same dynamic offense this year after the departure of middle blocker Brinn Macllela, but freshman Kayla Channell has made a seamless transition into the role.
“We haven’t lost a step to what Brinn did to what Kayla’s doing,” Coughlin said. “Kayla is unbelievably hard-working. She has spent a ton of offseason in the gym. She’s been working for this since June and has worked hard to be where she’s at right now.”
Randorf once again led Gilmour with 13 kills, two aces, six digs and three blocks, Sabrina Gremm delivered with ten kills, two aces, six digs and one block and Channell recorded five kills and one block.
After the Lancers’ state semifinals match against Lake Catholic at Wright State University on Nov. 12 at 6 p.m., the winner advances to the state final on Nov. 13 at 5 p.m.