Thomas Dale going to states
Knights win Region 6B semifinals over Manchester 3-0 to qualify for Class 6 tournament
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 work...it 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.