One final attack from hitter Leah Richardson presented a familiar feeling to the Wetumpka volleyball team.
As the ball fell to the ground on Stanhope Elmore’s side, the Indians erupted in a cascade of cheers. They had just captured their fifth consecutive area title in straight sets despite the absence of star libero Erin Douglass, with Khloe Harris posting a phenomenal performance to lead the charge.
“We all felt like, ‘We made it this far, might as well finish it right here,’” Harris said. “We were calling for Leah, we knew Leah was gonna be up, she was gonna be ready. And when the ball went down it felt amazing.”
Khloe Harris was an attack-stuffing, smooth-swinging, team-leading hurricane of volleyball prowess Thursday.
She recorded, at a minimum, 14 kills, four blocks and three aces across just three sets of play in the area championship game. She did it from a variety of positions too, dominating at her usual middle blocker spot but also rotating to the back row when Wetumpka needed extra defense against the Mustangs’ hitters and playing the outside up front when called for.
“Khloe’s a natural leader, she’s a really great athlete,” Wetumpka coach DeAnna Smith said. “It’s no secret that she’s our best hitter wherever she is on the floor. We know that if we get in a bind, we can always got to Khloe, because she’s gonna dig us out of that.”
Harris’ second set may have been her best, a five-kill, three-block effort that catapulted the Indians to a 25-15 win in the game.
That set stood out as the contest’s most decisive, with Wetumpka winning game one 25-21 and game three 25-22.
“We had a goal, we wanted to be repeat champions,” Smith said. “This makes five years in a row we’ve won area. We hadn’t dropped a set with Stanhope yet this year, so we were glad that we were able to do that and execute.”
With Douglass out, the Indians had to call upon one of the youngest players on their varsity roster to fill a giant postseason role.
Ashlynn Turner got the start at libero and proved reliable, especially given her age. Her service game also played a factor as she collected a couple aces during the match, including one during a seven-point rally she was on serve for.
“Ashlynn has been in a very difficult position for the past week, stepping up, taking the shoes of our senior libero,” Smith said. “I’m really pleased with her calm demeanor, her confidence, her ability to execute.”
When Harris wasn’t hammering the ball home Wetumpka relied heavily on Richardson and junior Julie Boshell to make attacks, both of whom collected their fair share of kills in the match.
“Julie is just an all-around player, and she’s really grown into that role as a junior,” Smith said.
The Indians move on to the super regional in Montgomery next, where they’ll meet Class 6A Area 3 runner up Lanier in the first round.
Smith said the team will focus internally on its game moving into the next phase of postseason play, and hopes that Douglass will be ready to go come next week.
“I feel like we have a few things that we have to tweak a little bit, but for the most part we’re gonna go in ready,” Harris said. “We’ve always made it past the first round. We have a tougher team to play this year, but we’re a tough team to beat too and I feel like we can make it past and keep pushing.”