Shelbyville 8th grade volleyball was poised for a deep run into the postseason, probably the state tournament and a shot at the title. The COVID-19 scare cost them that chance.

In the football movie Remember the Titans, a coach gave up his chance for the Hall of Fame to help the team. The other coach said, “You’re Hall of fame in my Book.”

Similarly, the Ram 8th volleyball team could be considered “State Champs in our book.”

“I still can’t believe our season just came to a halt the day of the Regional Championship against T-Town, who we already beat during the regular season!” said Ram 8th coach Meleah Brinkoetter. “They played so well during the second round of regional.

“You could tell they weren’t going to let anything come between them and the trophy. We got to run our new offensive play that we have been practicing just recently during practice. It definitely caught the other team off guard, the spectators, and myself. I gave them the go ahead in one of the huddles if they got a good pass.

“Out on the court they did a good job communicating with each other to make the play work. I literally got chills watching Ella (Storm), Kinzee (Musser, Emily (Duckett) and Dru (Clark) pull it off. I’ve been waiting the entire season for them to play to their potential and show everyone how good they really are.”

Libero Ella Storm led the Ram defense with 139 digs and started the transition to offense. Kinzze Musser dished 173 of the 227 assists as setter. As a hitter, Musser, along with middle hitter Dru Clark struck for a team-high 63 kills, each.

Middle hitter Amber Lewis hit 56 kills, Caroline White 55, Millie Clark 46, and Emily Duckett 28. White followed Storm with 121 digs.

At the service line, Musser led the team with 214 points and 48 aces. Millie Clark served 212 points with 36 aces. Storm served 174 points with 29 aces. White had 166 points with 38 aces and Lewis served 105 points with 20 aces.

Musser led the team with 115 attack points (aces, kills, blocks). Add in her assists and she had part in 288 attack points. White followed with 98 attack points. Lewis scored 92 attack points, on the strength of 16 blocks.

Dru Clark had 86 attack points, including a team-high 23 blocks. Millie Clark had 85 attack points and Duckett had 43 attack points. Storm had 34. Delaney Keown had 10 attack points and dished 35 assists to give her part of 45 attack points.

As a team, Shelby 8th served 198 aces, hit 327 kills and stuffed 54 blocks for 579 attack points. They scored 55% of their points off the attack.

They scored 1053 service points and 198 were aces (18.8%). They dished 227 assists towards 327 kills, 69.9% from the offensive set. The defense scooped 507 digs. Storm and White, combined, had half (260).

The Rams finished the season, 21-1, and headed to the regional title against a team they had beaten in straight sets earlier in the season, 25-16, 25-23. They would have faced Newton Jasper County (#3) or Robinson Nuttal (#1) from the Casey 8-3A Regional at the Meridian 8-3A Sectional on Monday.

From there it was the state tournament at Tolono Unity, which would have been this Friday and Saturday.

The Rams won their first 12 matches of the year, up until the title match in their own tourney.

“I think they got a wake-up call when they lost in the Shelbyville Tournament Championship against Taylorville (25-8, 25-13),” Brinkoetter said. “After this loss, one day at practice the girls were looking at the volleyball banners in the gym and one of the girls said, “Hey there’s no ‘STATE CHAMPS’ up there.

“I told them to look at the year 1992 and then proceeded to tell them a little story about my class of 1996 because they remind me so much of how we acted and played in Jr. High.

“I told them that in 7th grade my class was also undefeated and we got our 1st loss at State and were devastated just like you were. We were crushed and hated that feeling of losing so we knew we had to work harder and do whatever we needed to do so that we wouldn’t have that same feeling again.

“So in 8th grade, we went all the way to State again, but this time we were undefeated State Champs! It has never been done again, so how cool would it be that we go all the way and I’m the one that’s coaching you. They all agreed.”

After the singular loss to Taylorville, the Rams ran the table with a 9-match winning streak. Their 20th win was against rival Pana, in a blowout, 25-11, 25-11. In the regional semi, Shelby (#1) trashed (#4) Toledo, 25-8, 25-11.

“Unfortunately, they don’t get to finish their story in 8th grade. It was the hardest thing I had to do, as a coach so far, to tell them that their volleyball post season is officially over and that we wouldn’t be able to finish. There went our long term goal and that was to do just as good as they did in 7th grade if not better. I told them that when they get to HS they will have some unfinished business.”

“I love these talented girls so much and had a lot of fun getting to know them on a personal level since I don’t teach here. I had a lot of fun and am glad I got the opportunity to coach these young ladies and spend time with them on and off the court.

“Chemistry is so hard to find in teams but not with this group. They have the chemistry, the talent, the competitiveness, and dedication that you need to go far in volleyball. I wish them the best of luck and can’t wait to watch them finish their Class of 2024 story when they get into high school.”

Shelbyville 8th Volleyball 2020 Season (20-1) Okaw Conference Champions (8-0) Okaw Conference Tourney Champs Team stats

1053 Points, 198 aces (18.8%), 327 kills, 227 Assists, Blocks 54, Digs 507, Attack Pts 579 (.55%)

Individual Stats

Kinzee Musser: 214 points, 48 aces, 63 kills, 173 assists, 4 blocks, 60 digs, 115 attack points; Caroline White 166 points, 38 aces, 55 kills, 2 assists, 5 blocks, 121 digs, 98 attack points; Amber Lewis 105 points, 20 aces, 56 kills, 16 blocks, 12 digs, 92 attack points; Dru Clark 1 point, 63 kills, 23 blocks, 11 digs, 86 attack points; Millie Clark 212 points, 36 aces, 46 kills, 3 assists, 3 blocks, 92 digs, 82 attack points; Emily Duckett 86 points, 12 aces, 28 kills, 9 assists, 3 blocks, 45 attack points; Ella Storm 174 points, 29 aces, 5 kills, 2 assists, 139 digs, 34 attack points; Delaney Keown 55 points, 7 aces, 3 kills, 35 assists, 16 digs, 10 attack points; Elyse Lape 16 points, 2 aces, 5 kills, 2 assists, 9 digs, 7 attack points; Haylee Hunter 20 points, 4 aces, 2 kills, 1 assist, 7 digs, 6 attack points; Nivea Hewing 4 points, 2 aces, 1 kill, 3 attack points; Claire Matheny 1 dig.

John Curtis can be reached at john.curtis@shelbyvilledailyunion.com

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