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Four local teams are favorites in their volleyball sectionals

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Shenandoah’s Lexy Price (7) attempts a kill while teammates Faith Muterspaugh (22) and Kara Surguy (16) watch and Blue River Valley’s Rachel Snavely (13) waits to dig it up during the Henry County Tournament semifinals at Knightstown Sept. 29. The Raiders hope to win a fourth-straight sectional championship at the same venue this week.
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Hagerstown’s Hallie Rogers gets ready to serve against visiting Knightstown during a regular season match this year. Rogers leads the Tigers in digs and assists and hopes to help lead her team to a third-straight sectional championship.
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Blue River Valley volleyball players Mallory Cross (10), Brooke Taylor (11), Abby Thornburgh (6), and Rachel Snavely (13) await a Shenandoah serve during the Henry County Tournament semifinals Sept. 29. The Viking quartet hope to lead their team to its first sectional championship in a long, long time.
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New Castle’s Mabrey Shaffmaster gets ready to serve against host Yorktown during last Thursday’s battle of two top-ranked teams for the Hoosier Heritage Conference championship. Shaffmaster is third in the state in both kills (485) and service aces (104) and hopes to help lead the Trojans to a second straight Class 3A state championship.

By DAVID RISLEY - drisley@thecouriertimes.com

For the first time in quite a while, four of our six local high school volleyball teams are favorites to win sectional championships, as action deciding those titles gets underway Thursday for those six schools.

Three won sectional championships last year (New Castle, Hagerstown, and Shenandoah), and the Trojans ended the season by capturing the Class 3A state championship. The Tigers and Raiders won sectional titles in 2016 with Hagerstown making it all the way to the Class 2A southern semi-state.

Class 3A Sectional 24 at Wapahani

This sectional got underway Tuesday evening with Hamilton Heights (5-21) taking on Delta (17-13).

Opening round matches Thursday are New Castle (28-5) vs. Blackford (4-27) followed by Jay County (13-7) vs. Muncie Burris (27-4). Host Wapahani (24-7) drew the bye and will take on the winner of the Huskies-Eagles match in Saturday’s first semifinal.

Prediction: Delta will defeat Hamilton Heights Tuesday to set up a meeting with the host Raiders in Saturday’s first semifinal. The Trojans will have little trouble defeating the Bruins and the Owls will take care of the Patriots in Thursday’s matches, setting up a New Castle vs. Burris second semifinal on Saturday.

Wapahani will defeat Delta in the first semifinal. The Trojans swept the Owls in Ball Gym a couple of weeks ago and will win again Saturday setting up a New Castle vs. Wapahani championship match.

Last year’s semifinal match between the Raiders and Trojans was one of the best this writer has ever witnessed and probably was the de facto Class 3A state championship match. New Castle won in a spine-tingling five sets. Wapahani lost some really good talent off that team and probably isn’t as strong as it was a year ago, so the Trojans should capture their second sectional title in a row.

Class 2A Sectional 41 at Cambridge City Lincoln

The draw in this sectional calls for the seeding of IHSAA sectionals, as the four teams with winning records have to play in the opening round, while the two with losing records drew byes and don’t have to play until Saturday.

Thursday, two-time defending champion Hagerstown (21-4) faces Centerville (20-9) in the first match, while Union County (15-14) squares off against host Lincoln (21-8) in the second.

In Saturday’s semifinals, Northeastern (13-16) plays the winner of the Tigers vs. Bulldogs match, and Winchester (4-20) takes on the winner of the Patriots vs. Golden Eagles contest.

Prediction: Hagerstown and Cambridge City Lincoln will emerge as winners after tough opening-round matches and will defeat the Knights and Golden Falcons, respectively, in Saturday’s semifinals.

The Golden Eagles are a formidable foe on their home court, but when Hagerstown decides to play, the Tigers are tough. Jessica Swimm and Regan Tinkle will be the difference as Hagerstown will capture its third straight sectional title.

Class 2A Sectional 42 at Knightstown

This sectional draw also calls for seeding, as the three teams with winning records plus the tourney hosts have to play on Thursday, while two teams with losing records drew byes into Saturday’s semifinal round. 

Thursday’s opening-round matches have host Knightstown (13-18) facing Indianapolis Howe (9-5) and three-time defending sectional champion Shenandoah (20-11) taking on Triton Central (17-9).

On Saturday, Irvington Prep Academy (2-7) plays the winner of the Panthers-Hornets match in the first semifinal, and Eastern Hancock (11-19) tangles with the winner of the Raiders-Tigers match in the second semifinal.

Prediction: Knightstown, which swept host Howe just last Thursday, will do so again and will breeze past Irvington Prep in the semis for its place in Saturday night’s championship match. Shenandoah has a slightly tougher path, but will get past Triton Central and then the Royals in the semifinals to reach the title match.

This will be the fourth meeting of Panthers vs. Raiders this season. Shenandoah won the previous three, but it took the Raiders five sets to dispose of Knightstown in the Henry County Tournament championship match. The Panthers will be rested and ready, Shenandoah’s experience in these types of matches puts them over the top and they will win their fourth straight sectional championship.

Class A Sectional 56 at Blue River Valley

The host Vikings are the only team in the field with a winning record and Blue River has defeated the other teams in its sectional when it has faced them this season. Only defending champion Seton Catholic poses any threat of denying the Vikings their first volleyball sectional title since Moses came down from Mt. Sinai.

The Vikings (13-11) and Cardinals (11-19) drew first-round byes and wouldn’t meet until Saturday night’s championship match (like a proper seeding would do), so they have Thursday night off.

In Thursday’s first round, Tri (2-24) plays Union City (3-17) in the opener, followed by Randolph Southern (3-23) facing Union-Modoc (0-15).

Prediction: The Titans defeated the Indians on the road earlier this season and will do so again Thursday, while the Rebels will defeat the Rockets in the other opening-round match. Seton Catholic and Blue River will defeat Tri and Randolph Southern, respectively, to get to Saturday night’s title match.

The Vikings are much-improved from a season ago and swept past the host Cardinals in Richmond in August. Blue River won’t be denied this year, as it will capture the sectional championship in refurbished Shelton Gymnasium.