Indian River volleyball making final preparations for state tournament

DAGSBORO — With just over 24 hours until the Indian River squad makes its appearance in the 2017 DIAA volleyball state tournament, final preparations are being made for their second-round match-up.

Although the Lady Indians fell short in the Henlopen Conference Championship Monday night (3-0 loss to Smyrna), the Henlopen Southern Division champions have plenty to be excited about.

“I have to give Smyrna credit,” said IR head coach Jim Barnes following the Smyrna loss. “I think they just out-served us, they out-defended us and we did not do enough in-system plays. We had a difficult time passing their serves, thus we would give the ball back to them. So, we just needed more in-system plays and they took us out by serving tough.”

The loss didn’t affect the tournament seeding, which had already been cemented ahead of the Oct. 30 showdown.

Indian River celebrates between serves during the Lady Indians’ championship match against Smyrna Oct. 30 (Sussex Post/Ben Heck).

Boasting a 14-1 regular season record, coach Barnes’ IR program earned a first-round bye as the No. 7 seed in this year’s tourney.
With Red Lion Christian Academy defeating No. 23 Sussex Academy, 3-0, in the first-round of the tournament Thursday night, Indian River is set to take on the No. 10 Red Lion squad in the second round Saturday, Nov. 4 at 7 p.m.

“It’s exciting that we’re here [the state tournament], we haven’t been here in so many years,” coach Barnes said. “Half my brain is so happy for the girls, so proud of the program, and the other half of my brain is focused on trying to continue to grow to the level we need to be in order to beat the upper-echelon teams. It’s a whole other level.”

Heading in to the 2017 season, Indian River set two sets of team goals.

“Our goal was to get into the state tournament,” said coach Barnes. “So, we actually have accomplished all of our goals that we set, then we had another set of goals once we accomplished those goals. One of those second goals was to win tonight (Henlopen championship). We didn’t win tonight, but we’re in the state tournament. That was our main goal. Finding out how far we can take this team is going to be exciting.”

This 14-1 squad has been years of hard work in the making.

Just three short years ago, IR finished the 2014 season with a 3-12 record.

This year’s group of seniors – McKenzie Johnson, Julia Bomhardt and Carly Collins – were just freshmen back then.

Now, the trio of girls are senior leaders on a 14-win state tournament team.

With one major goal down, the Lady Indians are ready to see just how far they can take it in this year’s tournament.

Sports Editor Ben Heck can be reached at bheck@newszap.com.

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