It's called home-court advantage for a reason, and Clay City's Eels learned that the hard way in Class A high school volleyball regional action at the Indiana School for the Deaf.
In a gripping match that featured at least 100 plays that could have swung the outcome one way or another, the visitors lost the decisive fifth game 15-13 after having early 5-1 and 7-3 leads.
Clay City had beaten the Orioles in regional play last season at Clay City, and while the location of Tuesday's match wasn’t the only decisive factor, the atmosphere certainly played a part.
ISD was hosting a regional event for the first time ever, and the hosts did themselves proud. Clay City brought an amazing crowd that was loud and synchronized, but the home team had the benefit of probably all 108 high school students who are not on the volleyball team — it’s a residential facility, remember — plus quite a few boisterous elementary school fans as well.
“It was loud,” coach Vance Edmondson of the Eels agreed afterward. “We knew coming in it was going to be crazy, because [the Orioles] brought a noisy crowd [to Clay City] last year.
“I thought we brought a big crowd too,” Edmondson added in a second understatement. “It was a great atmosphere.”
The host team won the opening game 25-19, with the Eels appearing to be off their game. Clay City played more like it had done all season in winning the second game 25-18, but then fell apart completely in the third game. Trailing 12-9, the Eels gave up the next 10 points and lost 25-12.
“Give credit to [the Orioles],” Edmondson said, “but we didn't play one of our best games.”
Momentum seemed to swing Clay City's way every time the Eels — and senior Callie Dayhuff — served first, however. Dayhuff had a pair of aces in getting the viisitors off to a 4-0 start in the fourth game. The advantage grew to 8-3, but then the home team gained some traction with three straight points.
The remainder of the fourth game — eventually won by the Eels 25-21 — and the entire fifth game featured manic intensity from both teams. Clay City lead 11-9 in the fifth game, but the home team scored four straight to take the lead for good.
Twice the Eels came back within a point, and felt they'd had a successful kill because of an ISD touch on the point that went the Orioles’ way for a 14-12 lead. Halli Brewer retaliated with a big kill, but the Eels had a hitting error on the final point of the match.
Dayhuff was spectacular in defeat for the Eels with 24 digs, 13 kills and six aces among her stats. Brewer and Chloe Kittle were also in double figures in kills, while Emmie Kittle had 32 assists and 19 digs.
It was the first team regional championship in any sport for the Indiana School for the Deaf — and most of its students are probably still celebrating.
Clay City 19 25 12 25 13
Indiana School for the Deaf 25 18 25 21 15
Highlights — For Clay City, Emmie Kittle had 32 assists, 19 digs, a kill, 11 points and 3 aces; Callie Dayhuff 24 digs, 13 kills, an assist, 14 points and 6 aces; Halli Brewer 10 kills, 7 digs and 6 blocks; Chloe Kittle 10 kills, a block, 4 points and 2 aces; Claire Miller 12 digs, an assist, 3 points and an ace; Meghan Skaggs 2 digs, 13 points and 2 aces; Alyssa Yocum 7 digs, 3 assists, 2 kills and a point; Mackenzee McKittrick a kill, a block and a dig; and Kiersten Teegarden a block and a kill.
For ISD, Britta Schwall had 36 assists, a kill, 14 points and an ace; Giuletta Maucere 13 kills, 6 blocks, 2 assists, 15 points and 3 aces; Jasmine Jeter 19 kills, 8 points and 4 aces; JamiLee Hoglind 6 kills and 6 points; Raelyn Fuechtmann 3 blocks, 2 kills, 2 points and 2 aces; Nataly Fonseca 6 points and an ace; and Victoria Tingler a kill, 4 points and an ace.
Next — The Indiana School for the Deaf (29-10) plays Loogootee or Northeast Dubois in the second game of the Class A Loogootee Semistate on Saturday. Clay City finished 15-15.