Maddie Kmetz had a daunting introduction to high school volleyball.
The Andrean sophomore not only joined the varsity roster as a freshman last season, she earned the starting setter spot on the defending Class 2A state champions. The 59ers ran a 5-1 with Kmetz calling the shots on a roster that featured eight seniors, four juniors and just one other freshman.
“The pressure on her last year was immense,” Andrean coach Grant Bell said. “She was pretty polished when she came in, but setting in the front row is a whole different level. There was a little bit of a learning curve.”
Kmetz passed her first year with flying colors, leading the 59ers in sets played (92) and assists (623) while finishing second in aces (41) and fourth in digs (110). More importantly, Kmetz won over her older teammates and easily transitioned into the Andrean volleyball family.
“All of the seniors welcomed me onto the team without any problems,” Kmetz said. “We have a freshman on the team this year and I’ve tried to do the same thing with her. I was in her shoes once, too.”
Kmetz has spent her sophomore season growing, both literally and figuratively. While Kmetz says she still feels like an underclassmen, her experienced demeanor on the court suggests otherwise.
“I see the game differently now,” Kmetz said. “I’m more prepared and the game can move a little faster. I see a lot more of what’s going on.”
Bell has been especially thrilled with how Kmetz has progressed in the front row where she has more than tripled the amount of kills (38) she had as a freshman. The sophomore setter leads Andrean with 472 assists and 58 aces while adding 137 digs.
Kmetz would gladly trade all the personal numbers for a chance at adding another regional title. The 59ers fell in the regional semifinals last year and Kmetz is eager for another crack at making a deep postseason run. Andrean will take on Boone Grove in the Class 2A LaVille Regional semifinals on Saturday afternoon. Should the 59ers win, they’d play Rochester or Fairfield for the right to get to the semi-state championship.
“I learned (last year) not to take a team for granted,” Kmetz said. “We’ve got to come out and play our game, focus on what we do. I’m really excited. I want today to be Saturday. I just want to play.”
Wallace to Radford
Munster middle hitter Laila Wallace isn’t ready for her high school playing days to end, but the senior captain is thrilled to know where she’ll continue her playing career at the next level. Wallace verbally committed to Radford earlier this year and is expected to sign her National Letter of Intent next month.
“The coaching staff at Radford was amazing and the school is the perfect fit for size and what I’m looking for in my career,” Wallace said. “It’s a big relief to have this out of the way so I can just concentrate on playing my game. It’s been great being a captain this year and helping the younger girls as they go throughout their own recruiting process.”
Wallace chose Radford, a Big South school located in Virginia, over offers from Marshall and Texas State, among other programs. Wallace leads the Mustangs with 71 blocks, including 37 solo blocks, and is third on the team with 202 kills.
Griffith earned a sectional three-peat in a special way last week when the Panthers swept Calumet, Hammond and Gavit on their way to a third straight sectional title.
The Panthers gave up more than 16 points just once in their nine sectional games and enter Saturday’s Class 3A Hanover Central regional semifinal against West Lafayette with a 14-11 record. Griffith has won three straight sectional titles twice in school history with the first three-peat coming from 2011-13. The Panthers have yet to win a regional title.
“We have a really young team with just four seniors and the rest are sophomores,” Griffith coach Melissa Ballenger said. “Winning this sectional was new for a lot of them. What that means is we’ve created a culture where winning is expected. It’s a culture that is an expectation of what Griffith volleyball strives for each year.”