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Eagles rally back to end Argylls' season

By CHUCK LANDIS - clandis@chronicle-tribune.com

KOKOMO — Madison-Grant had a set in hand and was ready to take another from Oak Hill in the girls' volleyball sectional at Taylor High School. But momentum is a funny thing.

The Golden Eagles rallied back from a 23-18 deficit to force overtime, pulling off a 27-25 comeback victory and change the entire complexion of the match. The Argylls never recovered and the Eagles went on to a 3-1 match win and advance to the semifinals.

The Argylls won the first set 25-20, but following Oak Hill's comeback in the second, M-G would fall 25-19 and 25-6 to close out the match. 

Oak Hill (21-8) plays Taylor (3-22) at 12:30 p.m. Saturday after Tipton (22-12) meets Eastbrook (14-10) at 11 a.m. The winners then return to contest the championship at 6 p.m.

"If we got them down 2-0 we would have probably won (the match), but we didn't," Madison-Grant coach Bob Holloway said after his team finished 12-18. "We hit some poor shots and really careless shots, and we paid the price."

Holloway recounted how the sectional match was nearly identical to the Sept. 11 regular season match when the Argylls also won the opening set and then let a 24-19 lead in the second slip away. For Eagles coach Kristi Carmichael, it followed another familiar pattern of slow starts for her team.

"I don't know why we have to give coach a heart attack every single game, but they manage to do it," Carmichael said. "It was a great comeback, and it was mental toughness on their part to come back and be able to do it."

Madison-Grant had won sectional titles seven of the last nine years and early on had the senior-laden Eagles in trouble. Although the Eagles took a 5-1 lead to open the first set, the Argylls came back to win and built an 18-10 lead at one point in the second with freshmen playing primary roles.

Katie Garringer was the Argylls' most effective hitter in the first 1 1/2 sets and finished with 10 kills. Holloway also had praise for a pair of freshman back row players, Sydnee Wilson and Grace Holmberg.

"I thought we competed pretty hard," Holloway said. "I thought our freshmen played well under the circumstances  — this was their first sectional  — and especially in the back row with Sydnee Wilson and Grace Holmberg, and then Katie played well the first set and a half and then struggled in and out.

"We just weren't consistent enough, and it really came down to the last seven or eight points of the second set," he added.

Oak Hill survived a bad rotation that left standout middle hitter Ashlyn Transier on the bench for an extended period in the second set. The Argylls had put a lot of attention on neutralizing Transier and she had 10 kills, but the Eagles' other middle Taylor Westgate began to take control over the last half of the match and finished with 15 kills.

"That was a tough (rotation) for us, and we had to push through," Carmichael said. "Transier and Westgate are both big powerhouses for us, and when one's struggling the other comes through, and that's been helpful.

"Ashlyn comes through when it matters and she plays smart," she added.

The third set was there for the taking by both teams until leading 18-17 the Eagles ran off five straight points. Coleena Selleck delivered a big service ace in the closing sequence and would be instrumental in the fourth set.

Oak Hill led 6-3 when Selleck went back to serve, and the jump server who had issues getting the ball over the net earlier in the match went on to serve 12 consecutive points and put the Eagles in complete command at 17-4.

Selleck had received a nickname from Carmichael in the seventh grade after the character Scotty Smalls from the movie "The Sandlot" and it hasn't always been endearing.

"I call her 'Smalls' because sometimes she serves and misses it and I say 'You're killing me, Smalls," Carmichael said. "It's always been nickname since seventh grade. Her first two serves she missed and at one point she said 'I'm not serving anymore'.

"I didn't say anything at the time, and later on I came back and asked 'are you going to get your serve over' and she said yeah and from then on out she did. She's always had that jump serve and definitely when she's on fire it's a tough one to pass up."

Khloe Price contributed 11 kills from the outside position and Westgate and Kinsey Price each had three blocks. Brittany McCorkle had 23 digs and Lexi Carmichael had 21 assists.

Mia Stewart topped Madison-Grant with 12 kills and six blocks and McKenna Lugar had eight kills, 17 digs and three blocks. Carley Bramel had 24 digs and Brooke Butcher had 31 assists and 14 digs.