HARRISBURG — It’s been said that familiarity breeds contempt.
In the case of Hamilton County’s volleyball team, it might have actually birthed a Class 2A regional championship.
With a balanced net attack and strong defense, the third-seeded Foxes stopped second-seeded Massac County 25-19, 25-21 Thursday at Davenport Gym.
Kaelee Karcher and Carson Belangee each provided seven kills as Hamilton County (26-11) advanced to a 6:30 p.m. semifinal Monday night in the Johnston City Sectional against Nashville. Breanna Blades added six kills.
Not shown in the stats: How well the Foxes served. They didn’t register an ace, but they knocked the Patriots (25-12) out of system more than coach Zach Miller preferred.
“Their serving was fantastic,” he said. “They pushed us back and out of system to where we weren’t able to get the ball to our hitters. They did a much better job of keeping us on our heels. We spent the night playing defense and they spent the night playing offense.
“I thought we played hard and gave good effort, but the bottom line is the better team won.”
Hamilton County posted a three-set win over Massac County on Saturday at Fairfield’s tournament. Foxes coach Jason Hall not only got the victory, but also stored away some info that came into play for the rematch formed after both squads won easily in Tuesday’s semifinals.
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“We knew we matched up well with them,” he said. “They had a couple of good outside hitters and were a smart team. We had to win the battle at the net, and we won it. And we had girls step up when we needed them.”
Case in point: The first game, when Hamilton County opened up a 15-10 lead but saw the Patriots rally within 20-19 after a kill from setter Abigail Martin. The Foxes didn’t panic, scoring three straight points off Massac County mistakes and then closing the set with a Blades kill, followed by Belangee’s well-placed tip.
Hall said communication was important.
“They run a 5-1, which takes one of your hitters away. We knew we would have opportunities for single blocks and we talked,” he said. “We knew when we could get the swing down and when we had to tip.”
The second set was tighter than spandex. Neither team led by more than three until the Patriots closed within 22-21 on a kill by Kelis Adams. Then Hamilton County’s steadiness paid off one more time.
The final three points went like this: Four hits, hitting error, bad pass off a good, low serve by Dani Rubenacker. Game over, celebration started.
“We had our moments, we had our opportunities, but we weren’t able to capitalize,” Miller said. “Every time you look up, it’s another Hamilton County girl making a big play. And that’s how you win games.”
Rubenacker bagged 16 assists and libero Cambria Currie contributed 11 digs to the second regional title of Hall’s solid 14-year coaching career.
Hall said after the match that he felt his 2021 spring team, which went 17-3, could have made postseason noise if they had the chance. But the IHSA didn’t allow postseason play because of COVID-19 concerns.
Last spring’s seniors were on Hall’s mind as he gazed at the regional plaque.
“They gave us a 17-win year and I felt like we could have competed,” he said. “I felt like we had something special going into this year. To win this first regional outside of COVID-19 is a great thing.
“The girls needed this and our program needed this.”