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State champions honored at Trojan volleyball banquet

By DAVID RISLEY - drisley@thecouriertimes.com

Exactly one month after the Class 3A No. 1 New Castle High School volleyball team earned back-to-back state championships at Ball State University’s Worthen Arena in Muncie, the Trojans were honored Monday night at the annual banquet and recognition program held this year at Henry County REMC on Ind. 3 south of town.

All of the players were there accompanied by their families and junior Emily Scott said the blessing before everyone enjoyed a tasty meal of chicken strips, mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, green beans, corn, biscuits, and assorted desserts and beverages.

This New Castle volleyball team has the distinction of being the first Trojan athletic team in school history, boys or girls, to win back-to-back state championships in any sport.

As a “reward” for this achievement, the IHSAA will send the Trojans back to Class 4A for the next two years to compete in the tournament against the largest schools in the state. But with everyone except senior Ashley Wilkinson returning for the 2019 season (unless something unforeseen happens), New Castle should be one of the top favorites to win the Class 4A title next season and claim a “three-peat.”

But the focus Monday night was honoring the 2018 team and its achievements. After everyone had eaten, first-year Head Coach Sarah Roush welcomed all in attendance and passed out thanks for a number of things.

New Castle finished 35-5 this past season and were second in the Hoosier Heritage Conference at 6-1, losing in the league to only undefeated Class 4A state champion Yorktown. The Trojans were the only team to win a set from the Tigers all season. Yorktown finished No. 2 in the nation in the MaxPreps poll.

The only opponent New Castle failed to win a set against this season was the nation’s No. 1 team, Assumption from Louisville, Kentucky. Assumption defeated the Trojans 2-0 in a tournament.

In past years, the Trojans have distributed individual team awards in various categories. That was not done this year. Instead, the focus was on honoring all the players from the freshmen on up, noting the awards given to the various players by the Hoosier Heritage Conference, the Indiana Coaches of Girls Sports Association (ICGSA), the Indiana High School Volleyball Coaches Association (IHSVCA), and The Courier-Times.

As each girl’s name was called by class, she was presented a certificate along with a letter, chevron, or something else.

Member of this year’s varsity team were senior Ashley Wilkinson, juniors Emily Scott, Zoe Conway, Caitlin Shunneson, and Melani Shaffmaster, sophomores Laila Smith, Mabrey Shaffmaster, Eliza Madden, Nicole Wilkinson, and Bailey Cox, and freshman Adeline Bunner. Sophomore Samantha Ward and freshman Anyssa Hall joined the varsity team for the IHSAA tournament run.

Assistant coaches for this year’s Trojan team were Josh Collins, Justin Richman, and Jon Dicken.

Collins spoke and mentioned how honored he was to be one of the assistant coaches on this year’s team.

A video tribute was presented about the 2018 season from start to finish. Something about each girl was in the video with special attention given to senior Ashley Wilkinson.

Pictures in the lobby then were taken and folks were dismissed to go their separate ways.