As the Yorktown Tigers and the Hamilton Southeastern Royals took the floor at Worthen Arena on Saturday, fans saw not only the best high school teams in Indiana but two of the best volleyball teams in the country.
Coming into Saturday’s IHSAA Class 4A Volleyball State Championship game, MaxPreps ranked Hamilton Southeastern fourth in the nation and Yorktown fifth; the teams had a combined record of 67-3 this season. They already met this season before this championship showdown; a 5-set encounter that saw Hamilton Southeastern come away with a win.
The Tigers come from the breadbasket of Indiana high school volleyball, an area that already claimed a state championship earlier in the day with Wapahani’s stellar performance in the 2A state title game. In the past decade alone, East Central Indiana schools saw 11 state champions in volleyball.
A war was going to be fought over the 4A state title, and the parquet floor of Worthen Arena would be the battleground for this contest.
As the smoke cleared and the battle drew to its close, Hamilton Southeastern came out as the victors against Yorktown, giving the Royals their first volleyball state title.
The first set saw the Royals jump out to a 9-4 lead they would never surrender as Hamilton Southeastern bested Yorktown 25-17. Avery Hobson led the way for HSE with six kills, as nine errors committed by the Tigers turned the tide in the inaugural set.
As the matchup of the volleyball giants ran its course, many long rallies kept fans from both sides on the edge of their seats. Several Royal errors caused Yorktown to take a decisive lead as Emilee Hill led the way for the Tigers. Behind a white-hot hometown crowd, the Tigers snatched the second game decisively, 25-13.
This was only the second set Hamilton Southeastern had lost in the past 18 matches; the last time the Royals dropped a set was to 4A No. 3 McCutheon at the Noblesville regional final Oct. 22.
The third set saw Yorktown have a lead as large as eight points, but the Royals came clawing back due to three costly errors in a row by the Tigers. The Royals kept on pouncing on the Tigers before tying the game at 17. The seas of fans in emerald and navy traded chants as their teams traded points.
The third set proved to be the most competitive in the match so far, as the two highest-ranked teams in Indiana exchanged kill for kill, ace for ace, dig for dig. There were eight tie scores and three lead changes in the third set alone. At the end of the set, Hamilton Southeastern got the set win with a 25-23 triumph with a kill by Avery Hobson.
The frenetic energy of the closing stretch of the third set continued into the fourth set. Neither team got too big of a lead before the other came clawing back.
Yorktown was led by Charlotte Vinson, who had 15 kills on the day. Also playing significant roles for the Tigers were Gretchen Moore with 10 kills, Emilee Hill with 20 assists and 8 kills, and Kynndai Bell with 13 assists.
After the game, Hill, one of five seniors who played their final match together Saturday, noted the completeness of the Royals.
“We emphasized defense,” Hill said. “They were the opposite, they have a very big and fast offense.”
Hill, who will be playing college volleyball at Eastern Kentucky University, reflected on her time in the program and how it helped her and her teammates become “successful young women”.
“It’s bigger than myself,” Hill said. “I think it really created some lifelong friendships for me. This program is just the biggest blessing of my life.”