Thomas Dale go­ing to states

Knights win Re­gion 6B semi­fi­nals over Manch­ester 3-0 to qual­ify for Class 6 tour­na­ment

The Progress-Index Weekend - - SPORTS DESK - By Sean Jones Cor­re­spon­dent

CH­ESTER – Thomas Dale (16-2) qual­i­fied for the state tour­na­ment with a win over Manch­ester (12-6) in the Re­gion 6B semi­fi­nals. Dale never lost a lead in the 3-0 (25-11, 25-19, 25-18) sweep that dis­played the same dom­i­nance the Knights ex­erted through­out the reg­u­lar sea­son.

Thurs­day night’s game marked a come­back for se­nior Libero Zach Miller, who saw his first ac­tion since break­ing his hand halfway through the sea­son.

“He sat be­hind Con­ner Wester­field last year and would start for most teams in the area. He’s fi­nally had his op­por­tu­nity this year but an un­for­tu­nate in­jury hap­pened,” said Knights head coach Josh Forbes. “He’s a heart and soul kind of guy. He not just el­e­vates our level of play but el­e­vates our emo­tional as­pect of the game. There’s no­body else I’d rather have con­trol­ling our guys than Zach Miller.”

Dale opened the game with a com­mand­ing start un­der the elec­tric at­mos­phere of home court ad­van­tage. An­drew Car­raway and Gavin Wood started the game with strong rounds of serv­ing to give the Knights a 6-4 lead over the Lancers.

Ki­men­hour re­peat­edly de­liv­ered boom­ing kills from all over the court. He pulled off two nearly iden­ti­cal kills from deep in­side his own end of the court to fin­ish fran­tic vol­leys, get­ting his team to a 13-5 lead.

From 18-6, Dale found it dif­fi­cult to fin­ish off the set un­til sopho­more Isa­iah Ori­ente lasered a cal­cu­lated shot at the feet of Manch­ester’s front play­ers. The first set went 25-11 to the Knights.

Gavin Wood was given the start over team cap­tain Ja­cob Craig for the first set of the game, show­ing Dale’s strength in the mid­dle of the court.

“We have the two best set­ters in the state,” Forbes said. “This pro­gram has got such great depth right now that we can turn to the hot hands. Gavin’s had a great week of prac­tice and he was re­warded for that to­day. He’s also a guy who’s been the starter in this sit­u­a­tion for years. He’s tough as nails.”

Craig came in to cap­tain his team for the sec­ond set that saw a resur­gent Manch­ester team scrap for ev­ery ball at the net. Dale’s quick 6-2 lead looked shakier a few points later with the Lancer’s find­ing ways around 6’5 Ki­men­hour, 6’4 Kar­son Jen­nings and 6’2 Car­raway at the front. A con­fi­dent 19-12 lead gave way to a 23-18 matchup.

Dale fin­ished the set with a 25-19 win af­ter a few shaky mo­ments in the set.

“Some­thing we strive for is to com­plete all 25 points. The com­mu­ni­ca­tion stuff can’t be hap­pen­ing this time of year, and it hap­pened three times. That’s three times too many,” Forbes said. “But it’s a learn­ing op­por­tu­nity. And play­ing play­offs in the first cou­ple matches is al­ways kind of eye-open­ing. It makes you re­al­ize what the en­vi­ron­ment is go­ing to be like and I think that en­vi­ron­ment got to us a lit­tle bit tonight. Hope­fully it pre­pares us for fu­ture en­vi­ron­ments.”

The Knights fin­ished off the Lancers by jump­ing out to an­other lead and hold­ing on for the rest of the set. Wood flu­idly set up Ori­ente who me­chan­i­cally killed the ball through Manch­ester’s de­fense. The Thomas Dale stu­dent sec­tion took to re­mind­ing their op­po­nents that “He’s a Sopho­more!”

Miller came onto the court for the first time since break­ing his hand. The crowd wel­comed him back to an enor­mous roar.

That roar was at least tripled when he aced his first serve. The Dale bench clam­ored with ex­cite­ment as the crowd and stu­dent sec­tion chimed in.

The fi­nal set, and a place in the state tour­na­ment, was se­cured 25-18 when Manch­ester hit the ball out of play.

“The guys worked their tails off and im­proved im­mensely,” Forbes said af­ter the game. “It’s all their hard def­i­nitely shows the depth of the pro­gram and I think there are some other guys that could have been rec­og­nized.”

The Knights are set to play the Re­gion 6B fi­nal at home on Mon­day night.

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