A defending state champion and a top-ranked team in its class are two of the obstacles faced by Wabash Valley teams as the Indiana high school volleyball sectionals begin this week.
A four-time state finalist and at least one other unranked team will not be involved, however, because of COVID-19 quarantines.
Terre Haute North will be in action at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Class 4A Mooresville Sectional, while Terre Haute South will play there on Thursday. West Vigo and Northview also open Thursday at the Class 3A Edgewood Sectional.
• Class 4A — First-year coaches Libbi Fougerousse of South and Shelby Reed of North made impressive debuts, combining for 40 wins between them, but have their work cut out for them this week in one of the toughest sectionals in the state.
Start with Avon, ranked fifth in the state by MaxPreps and ninth by Indiana Prep Volleyball. The Orioles have won this sectional 19 times in a row despite fierce competition from their neighbors to the north (15th-ranked Brownsburg) and south (33rd-ranked Plainfield). North opens with Plainfield, and would meet Avon in a semifinal match.
"We have a very tough draw this year," said Reed, whose team is 19-6, "but I think if we show up and play our game, we can give [the Quakers and possibly the Orioles] a run for their money."
South, which finished 21-9, plays Decatur Central on Thursday, with Brownsburg and the host Pioneers also in that half of the bracket.
"The girls have worked hard all year and we don't want to be counted out," Fougerousse said. "We are young, but we are capable of playing very good volleyball. I believe we will have to play some of the best volleyball we've played all season to be able to win three matches [and the championship]."
• Class 3A — The sectional that's at Edgewood this year had been Northview's comfort zone through the 2018 season, when coach Erica Garrison's Knights finished second in the state. Then Brownstown Central was added last season, and the Braves went on to win the 2019 Class 3A championship.
Brownstown is unranked this year but has the bye in what appears to be a wide-open tournament. That's what the Knights and Vikings are hoping.
"It's been a rebuilding year," said Garrison, whose team is on the rise at 7-22. "With COVID, no spring conditioning, players being quarantined and lots of new challenges and lineups along the way, we are excited for the tournament."
One returnee from the runner-up team is Katy Anderson, whose remarkable but overlooked senior year has included setting single-game school records for digs and aces and surpassing 1,000 career digs despite spending some of her time as a setter.
"We've had our challenges this season, but the last two weeks have been the toughest [with several players quarantined]," said first-year coach Cameron Porter of the 3-20 Vikings. "The girls are practicing hard and looking forward to a rematch against Owen Valley."
Sullivan hosts its own sectional, with a good chance to reach the championship match against the survivor among Vincennes Lincoln, Washington and Princeton.
• Class 2A — If form holds true, there will be two outstanding championship matches at 7 p.m. Saturday.
At North Putnam, Western Indiana Conference champion South Putnam is ranked higher than Wabash River Conference champion Parke Heritage, but the Wolves won a four-set match against the Eagles last week. Riverton Parke will not be participating at this site because of its quarantine.
At Eastern Greene, SouthWestern Indiana Athletic Conference champion Linton and its big front line have a bye and an outstanding record, but top-ranked Barr-Reeve is in the other bracket.
• Class A — The SWIAC runner-up (thanks to a five-set loss to Linton), Bloomfield appears to be the favorite at Clay City. Lafayette Central Catholic, with two state championships and two runner-up finishes since 2010, won't be able to play at the Covington Sectional, which should make the always tough host team the favorite.
I I I
In high school action Saturday:
• Terre Haute South 3, Columbus North 1 — At Columbus, the Braves wrapped up a 3-2 Conference Indiana season.
Terre Haute South=23=26=25=25
Highlights — For South, Mia Loyd had 38 assists, 15 digs, 3 kills and 1.5 blocks; Courtney Jones 23 kills, 15 digs and 3 aces; Emma Hopper 17 digs, 2 assists and 5 aces; Gaby Pineda 15 digs and 2 aces; Ashlyn Swan 11 digs; Mikaila Sullivan 9 kills; Lilly Merk 5 kills, 2 blocks, 2 digs and 3 aces; Kaylee McDonald 4 kills and 3 digs; Chloe Denny a kill and a dig; and Claire Burbrink a kill.
Next — Terre Haute South finished 21-9, 3-2 in Conference Indiana, and plays Decatur Central at 6 p.m. Thursday at the Class 4A Mooresville Sectional.
• Wolves win — At Linden, Parke Heritage ended its regular season by winning the North Montgomery Tournament. The Wolves play Cascade at approximately 12:30 p.m. Saturday at the Class 2A North Putnam Sectional.
Indiana volleyball sectionals
Class 4A, at Mooresville
Tuesday — Terre Haute North vs. Plainfield, 7 p.m.
Thursday — Decatur Central vs. Terre Haute South, 6 p.m., followed by Mooresville vs. Brownsburg
Saturday — Avon vs. Tuesday winner, 11 a.m., followed by Thursday winners; championship 7 p.m.
Class 3A, at Edgewood
Tuesday — Brown County vs. South Vermillion, 7 p.m.
Thursday — West Vigo vs. Owen Valley, 6 p.m., followed by Edgewood vs. Northview
Saturday — Brownstown Central vs. Tuesday winner, 11 a.m., followed by Thursday winners; championship 7 p.m.
Class 3A, at Sullivan
Thursday — Washington vs. Princeton, 7 p.m.
Saturday — Pike Central vs. Sullivan, 11 a.m., followed by Vincennes Lincoln vs. Tuesday winner; championship 7 p.m.
Class 2A, at North Putnam
Thursday — Cloverdale vs. Southmont, 6 p.m., followed by Cascade vs. Parke Heritage
Saturday — North Putnam vs. Cloverdale-Southmont winner, 11 a.m., followed by South Putnam vs. Cascade-Parke Heritage winner; championship 7 p.m.
Class 2A, at Eastern Greene
Tuesday — Forest Park vs. North Knox, 7 p.m.
Thursday — Eastern Greene vs. South Knox, 6 p.m., followed by Southridge vs. Barr-Reeve
Saturday — Linton vs. Tuesday winner, 11 a.m., followed by Thursday winners; championship 7 p.m.
Class A, at Covington
Thursday — Traders Point Christian vs. North Vermillion, 6 p.m.
Saturday — Attica vs. Thursday winner, 11 a.m., followed by Bethesda Christian vs. Covington; championship 7 p.m.
Class A, at Clay City
Thursday — Bloomfield vs. North Central, 6 p.m., followed by Shakamak vs. Eminence
Saturday — White River Valley vs. Bloomfield-North Central winner, 11 a.m., followed by Clay City vs. Shakamak-Eminence winner; championship 7 p.m.