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Lady Spartans tame Panthers in 3 sets

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Connersville hitterLaina Fields (7) goes up for a spike against Franklin County in an Eastern Indiana Athletic Conference match on Wednesday evening. The Lady Spartans finished the night with 36 kills, on the way to a straight-set victory over the visiting Lady Wildcats.
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Connersville’s Jenna Orschell collects a serve receive against Connersville inside the CHS gymnasium on Wednesday evening. Orschell and the Lady Wildcats fell to the Lady Spartans by scores of 27-25, 25-18 and 25-15.

By GRADY TATE - gtate@newsexaminer.com

Whether the Connersville High School volleyball team is back in charge of its game, and closing in on being sectional-ready, remains to be seen.

After all, in its last four matches, the team is 2-2.

But in spite of the fact that the jury might still be out on that, head coach Torrie Whitmore is definitely pleased with what she’s seeing from her charges at the moment.

Wednesday, facing rival Franklin County in an Eastern Indiana Athletic Conference match, Whitmore’s squad found itself in a nip-and-tuck battle in the first set, the host Lady Spartans pulling out a 27-25 victory. 

Connersville then followed that with back-to-back wins, 25-18 and 25-15, earning straight-set success over the Wildcats.

“Tonight was a total team effort, you could see the girls working together toward a common goal,” Whitmore said.

And what was that goal?

“They really wanted to beat Franklin County in three, really bad,” Whitmore said with a smile.

Injuries have plagued CHS throughout the season, and that helped contribute to a six-game slide, one that came to an end with a victory over Rising Sun at the Connersville Invitational on Saturday.

And while Connersville still isn’t at 100 percent, the Spartan did get one player back on the court on Wednesday.

“I have Bella Baker back, so I am able to move Ally (Bell) back to her outside hitter position,” Whitmore said. “That really helps us a lot.”

Indeed.

At the net, Connersville finished with 36 kills, the team’s highest number since it hit 45 ... against Franklin County on Aug. 18.

Marley Smith led the charge on Monday, smacking 10 balls to the gymnasium floor. She was followed by fellow senior Emily Hodson with seven.

“Emily is doing a much better job of getting her arm through the ball quicker,” Whitmore noted of the upperclassman.

Other improvements are coming into focus for the CHS mentor, as well.

“Our serving was a lot better tonight,” she pointed out. “We have been struggling from there, but tonight, we turned that around and did much better. In the past couple of weeks, something has clicked and our passing has been great, as well. 

“Allison Woytik has really stepped up with her passing, and defensively, she has been phenomenal. Erika Smith was strong at the net for us tonight. She played really well, and earned some big blocks in the match.”

Woytik, the CHS libero, led the team in a pair of categories, collecting 13 digs and 11 serve receives, keeping the Spartans competitive from the back row.

Erika Smith led the Spartans with three blocks, followed by Baker with a pair of stuffs.

Keeping Erika Smith, Baker and the rest of the front row happy throughout the game was Laina Fields and Marley Smith, the duo finishing with 20 and 16 assists, respectively.

“This was a good win for us tonight,” Whitmore added.

The win was Connersville’s sixth of the season, two of those coming in the span of five days.

CHS will travel to the Franklin Community Invitational on Saturday, before heading to Cambridge City Lincoln on Tuesday.

CONNERSVILLE 27-25-25, FRANKLIN COUNTY 25-18-15

(at Connersville High School)

Kills — Connersville 36 (Marley Smith 10, Emily Hodson 7, Erika Smith 6, Ally Bell 5, Bella Baker 4, Paige Dunaway 4).

Blocks — Connersville 5 (Erika Smith 3, Bella Baker 2).

Serve receive — Connersville 34 (Allison Woytik 11, Emily Hodson 10, Raegan Patton 8, Marley Smith 4, Laina Fields 1).

Digs — Connersville 31 (Allison Woytik 13, Raegan Patton 10, Emily Hodson 5, Bella Baker 2, Tori Hanson 1).

Assists — Connersville 36 (Laina Fields 20, Marley Smith 16).

Aces — Connersville 6 (Marley Smith 2, Allison Woytik, Bella Baker, Emily Hodson, Laina Fields).