Batesville and Lawrenceburg kept everyone in the BHS gymnasium on the edge of their seats as the Sectional 29 volleyball championship went further into Saturday night (Oct. 19).

The two Eastern Indiana Athletic Conference rivals split the first four sets and Batesville was looking to tie the deciding fifth at 13 apiece after an ace by sophomore Regina Gerstbauer. Following a Lawrenceburg timeout, though, her next serve landed just long to put the Tigers at championship point. Standout Juliana Kemper served for LHS and a net violation sent the Tigers on to regionals.

“I am so proud of the girls,” head coach Kateri Paul said of the 25-23, 20-25, 25-19, 17-25, 12-15 marathon loss.

“They stuck to the game plan, we mixed it up a little bit,” she added. “I could not ask for anything more. I mean, a sophomore missed that serve, but she gave me everything she had all year and I couldn’t be more proud of her. The scoreboard doesn’t reflect that we won, but we don’t have any losers. The girls did a great job.”

The favored Tigers got off to a quick start, with Kemper’s ace making it 4-1 early in the opening set. Three straight errors by the visiting team then allowed BHS to gain momentum that would carry the Bulldogs to a match advantage.

A Gerstbauer bump landed for a winner and junior Nikki Fox’s ace had LHS coach Staci Knigga asking for time at 8-4. A pair of kills by senior Macy Prickel put the Dogs into double digits. At 10-5, the Tigers reeled off five in a row to tie the set. Senior Abigail Westerfeld had a mini-run from the service line, offering her first ace.

LHS again knotted things at 15, erasing a 4-point lead. The sides split the next 10 points to make it 20-all. Fox served an ace, followed by a front-row block. A kill by freshman Cayman Werner and block from junior Kerigan Haskamp gave BHS set point. At 24-23, junior Kylie Laker’s tap closed the set.

Points by Werner and Prickel and a Gerstbauer ace put the Dogs ahead in the next set before the Tigers tied it up at 6. Kemper kills made it 9-8; the senior had another for a 13-8 lead and timeout by Paul.

“Our game plan was to take the line away from them and feed them into the court,” said the coach of lethal duo Kemper and sophomore Cora Taylor. “Regina did grab a couple of those digs and Macy got a hand on them, but it just wasn’t enough. When they were both in the game, they were a force.”

LHS kept a lead of 3-6 points and increased that to 7 (21-14) after a Bulldog attack error. BHS regrouped after a timeout; three Tiger errors forced a Knigga timeout at 23-19. Prickel picked up an ace, but Lizzie Redar served out the set.

The teams struggled for momentum in the third set; at 8-8, the Dogs grabbed it. Junior hitter Katie Bedel came alive with two blocks and a winner, leading to LHS’ timeout at 12-8. Batesville, despite two replayed points after some referee confusion, pushed its cushion to 20-14 and another Tiger timeout. In that streak, Bedel earned four more points.

Two straight aces by Westerfeld made it 23-16 and Bedel added two more winners for the set victory.

A point for sophomore Shelby Westerfeld gave the fourth set its sixth early tie at 9-9. Back-to-back kills by Kemper (and a push shot) and consecutive BHS hitting errors had the Dogs calling time at 14-9. This time, the Tigers weren’t going to let the hosts back in the game. Knigga’s squad scored 11 of the next 19 points to force the tiebreaking set.

Batesville fired up the home crowd as Bedel and Werner kills quickly made it 2-0. A kill and block by Kemper capped off LHS’ comeback; at 5-2, the Dogs wanted timeout. The Tigers went on a 6-4 run to force another BHS timeout.

A pair of Bedel points helped the Dogs cut the lead to 12-10, before Prickel and Kemper traded kills.

Prickel was credited with 19 total points, S. Westerfeld 12 and Werner 10. Kemper and Taylor combined for 52 markers for the winners.

Batesville finished 2019 with a 19-11 record. For Prickel and Abby Westerfeld, the loss meant the end of the road for their high school playing days.

“It was tough for them,” confirmed Paul. “Both played varsity for four years, though Macy didn’t letter as a freshman. Abby did great tonight in a serving role, I think she had 5 aces. They did a tremendous job for us tonight.”

Lawrenceburg will play Silver Creek next in the state series.

VS. CONNERSVILLE (SEMIFINAL)

Batesville first had to get past another EIAC foe in the first of two semifinal matches earlier in the day.

Starting off slowly against the Lady Spartans, the Bulldogs gradually warmed up in eliminating CHS in three quick sets. After a 25-22 opening set, the Dogs won 25-17 and 25-14 to lock down a finals spot.

“I felt like we played safe against Connersville,” said Paul. “It wasn’t like (1st-round) Rushville, when we went out to get it. We wanted to get the job done, but the girls weren’t playing their game. That’s why I knew they had it in them (for the finals).”

Bedel was credited with 13 kills and Werner 11. Laker and freshman Laney Walsman were solid in setting and defense, respectively. Sophomore Erika Smith led the Spartan effort.

Will Fehlinger can be contacted at sports@batesvilleheraldtribune.com or 812-934-4343, Ext. 220112