Photo slideshow: Henry Clay defeats Paul Laurence Dunbar 3-0
The Paul Laurence Dunbar volleyball game at Henry Clay on Tuesday night was a classic matchup of two proud programs.
Between them, the Bulldogs (five) and Blue Devils (seven) have won the last 12 11th Region titles.
They are each ranked in the top 10 in the latest Kentucky Volleyball Coaches Association poll — Dunbar, sixth, and Henry Clay, seventh.
Henry Clay’s 3-0 sweep marked Coach Dale Grupe’s 600th victory at the school and 701st win overall.
And on the floor, the Blue Devils and Henry Clay each had a set of three sisters in uniform.
Henry Clay senior Sara Shadwick and her junior twin sisters Abby and Emma are varsity starters. Over at Dunbar, the Bulldogs have senior Peyton Gash and sophomore Campbell Gash among the team leaders and younger sister Delany contributing as an eighth-grader.
It’s an unusual situation, Dunbar Coach Jennifer Morgan, acknowledged, having three siblings all play the same sport and all play it well for the same team at the same time.
“It’s been nice to see them as sisters interacting but you also see them become teammates,” Morgan said.
Neither coach has ever really seen any family issues ever make it into practice or the games, they said. The Shadwicks said they know they are “blessed” to love the same sport.
“It’s really special,” Sara Shadwick said. “Because we kind of have a really good chemistry together. They can get on me and I won’t take it personally.”
Twins Abby and Emma, each listed at 6-foot-1 on MaxPreps.com have hitter roles, while 5-8 Sara serves as the team setter.
“I was a middle hitter at one point, but they passed me,” the 5-8 Sara said, looking up slightly.
Grupe began coaching the twins as sixth-graders in club ball and has had Sara since eighth grade at Henry Clay.
“They are just the most sincere and nice kids,” Grupe said. “… Sometimes we don’t want them to be so nice (on the court). They could be a little meaner, but no, they are just awesome kids.”
And the family chemistry has translated to team chemistry, especially early this season, like Tuesday’s game where the Blue Devils knocked off a Dunbar team that has had their number in the playoffs each of the last two years.
“It wasn’t just that we played well, that was the best game we’ve played this whole season,” Sara Shadwick said.
But Grupe knows Tuesday’s result doesn’t mean much in the grand scheme, even as his 600th Henry Clay win. Still, he was excited to see his team’s effort and enthusiasm.
“They played with more energy than we had been,” Grupe said. “We knew that we definitely had to bring a lot more energy than we’ve shown in some other matches.”
That energy will be key as the season moves forward and the Blue Devils (5-2) look to get back to the state tournament for the first time since 2016.
“That’s a fun rival. They’re an awesome team we’ve beaten them a couple of times the last couple of years and they’ve beaten us a couple times,” Grupe said, admitting Dunbar’s (9-3) recent wins in the series have come at playoff time, but “any time we play each other, I think we both want to beat each other.”
Around the city
No. 9 Tates Creek — Record: 8-1; Rank: No. 9; Notes: Only loss came in Knoxville, Tenn., tournament. Face 43rd District rival Dunbar on Sept. 24. Hannah Kazee averaging 12.1 kills per game. Victoria Scott in state top 10 in blocks. Lexie Deaton the same for assists.
No. 17 Lafayette (5-4) — Suffered losses to city rivals Frederick Douglass and Henry Clay this month, but have three tourneys on tap to regain momentum ahead of districts.
No. 18 Bryan Station (15-1) — Ranked in the Kentucky Volleyball Coaches Association top 25 poll, the Defenders beat 42nd District rival Douglass in five sets Tuesday
Frederick Douglass (10-2) — Swept No. 17 Lafayette last week and have established selves as contenders in 11th Region in third year of program.
Lexington Christian (5-3) — Claimed 11th Region All “A” title with 2-0 win over Sayre last week.
Sayre (11-8) — Have already matched last season’s total of four wins inside the 11th Region.
Lexington Catholic (5-8) — Unable to string together multiple wins in a row so far and have tough district matchups with Dunbar and Lafayette ahead. Lucy Wedding among state kills leaders.