By Travis M. Smith | KBEC Sports
The Italy Lady Gladiators began their 2021 volleyball season with a thrilling five-set win Tuesday against Blooming Gove.
Italy took the first and third sets by a 25-14 score, despite dropping sets two and four 9-25 and 19-25 to force the decisive fifth set on the Lady Gladiators’ home court.
Led by senior setter Brooklyn Steinmetz and sophomore Marissa Martinez, the Lady Gladiators fought off the Lady Lions in the final set, 15-11, to pick up the season-opening win. Italy also benefitted from the return of senior Sadie Hinz, who missed all of her junior season with an injury.
The Lady Gladiators — who are once again under the leadership of head coach Shauna Steinmetz — are coming off a season in which they finished 7-15 overall and 7-7 in district 15-2A. Italy bowed out in the 2A bi-district playoffs in 2020 after being swept by Tioga.
Italy returns every top statistical leader from last season’s team.
Keri Scott (118 kills), Cadence Hopgood (66), Karley Sigler (64) and Emily Janek (53) all return after benefitting in 2020 from the 373 assists provided by Steinmetz.
Senior outside hitter and defensive specialist Morgan Brown (47 kills, 147 digs in 2020) continues to work her way back from injury with hopes of rejoining the team later this season.
Scott, Taliyah Ezell, Janek, Brown, Ella Hudson, Sigler and Ryleigh Webb all return after recording 100 or more digs. Scott and Ezell led the group with 186 and 179 digs, respectively.
The Lady Gladiators return to action at home Tuesday against (3-0) Bynum. The first serve is slated for 5:30 p.m.
Italy will then travel to Dawson for a two-day tournament on Thursday, Aug. 19 and Saturday, Aug. 21.
The Lady Gladiators begin district play Friday, Sept. 10, at home against Kopperl.
For those who want to keep up, Italy ISD Athletics is using a new program-wide hashtag this year to help fans follow along with the successes of the Lady Gladiators and Gladiators — #OneTeamOneItaly. It will be one worth following, too, as Italy is poised for quite the 2021-22 sports season.
Travis M. Smith, @Travis5mith