YORKTOWN, Ind. — After Ellee Stinson earned her 1,000th career dig Tuesday night, she spoke about how pleased she was to reach a milestone that she saw players reach before her.
Stinson came into the night 23 digs away from reaching No. 1,000 and, after surpassing that total in the third set of Tuesday night’s 3-1 (25-21, 19-25, 25-20, 25-14) win over New Castle, she was honored with a game ball and posed for a quick picture with head coach Stephanie Bloom.
“I had no idea, I was like, ‘What are we doing?'” Stinson said of the stoppage following the third set. “It’s just kind of like a benchmark that I’ve been looking forward to. Seeing all the upperclassmen as I’ve grown up hitting those, it was kind of, really exciting to finally do it myself.”
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But just as Stinson used to strive to reach career marks that older players before her achieved, after the match, Bloom said it’s Stinson that up-and-coming players should be looking up to.
“You know, to reach 1,000 digs and to never be the libero, it says something about her play and how scrappy she is,” Bloom said. “… For young kids, I hope they watch her and go, ‘I want to be like her,’ because the thing that makes her so good is that she works her tail off. Yes, she is gifted athletically but she goes to work every day and she’s reaping the benefits of that, which I thought is real cool to see.”
But after that moment, there was still volleyball to be played. The Tigers came out rallying in the fourth set, where they led by as many as 14 points, and defeated the same New Castle team that handed Yorktown its only two losses — including one in the sectional semifinals — last season.
Leading up to the match Bloom said her team was “real worked up” about playing New Castle, the three-time defending state champions. In the previous six meetings, the two teams split a 3-3 record and Trojans’ fans wore shirts that said “Back 4 More” on their backs. After trailing most of the first set and dropping the second set, Yorktown took control in the third and fourth to beat a New Castle team that has three Division I commits.
“I think it’s just that, after last year and that sectional loss, for all of us returners it’s just a really big fire starter,” Yorktown senior libero Jenny Morey said of playing New Castle. “We see them on our schedule, we’re looking forward to it all week. Obviously, we’re taking it one game at a time but we always have them there, like ‘We’ve got to be ready, we’ve got to be ready.’”
And ready Yorktown was. Stinson finished with a season-high 26 digs to go along with 17 kills. Kaitlyn Judge had a career-high 18 kills while Jaylynn Dunsmore and Ava Eakins added nine and eight kills, respectively. Morey had 26 digs while Emilee Hill (who also had 48 assists) and Taryn Sallee finished with 15 and 11 digs, respectively.
In the first and second set, New Castle’s big hitters in Laila Smith and Mabrey Shaffmaster kept the Trojans on pace with the Tigers. But Yorktown’s strong defense helped it take full advantage of its offensive opportunities, where the Tigers utilized a variety of attackers to keep New Castle from gaining momentum.
“I think they beat us with runs, obviously they play very clean, you know, we weren’t able to put a whole lot of runs together there when we struggled in games three and four,” New Castle coach Stacie Baldwin said. “I think our blocking IQ needs to get a lot better and I think that will come with more experience and playing teams with multiple weapons and I think Yorktown does that; they use everybody.”
Both Baldwin and Bloom noted that there were errors made that their teams have to clean up moving forward. But being able to play a state championship-caliber opponent a month from the postseason has its benefits. Remember, these two are once again paired in the same Class 4A sectional this season, so any deep tournament run will likely start with a rematch between No. 2 Yorktown and No. 7 New Castle.
So, while a win for Yorktown was nice, it’s not one that the Tigers are going to be celebrating for too long.
“It’s really exciting,” Stinson said after the match. “Obviously, we wanted to beat them since we saw them in the sectional but it doesn’t mean anything, it’s just the regular season. It was nice but we’re going to see them in the sectionals so we have to capitalize there, too.”