(SOUTHSIDER VOICE PHOTOS BY JOHN SMITH)
Although the two Southside high schools are a few miles apart, 4A No. 3 Roncalli and 1A No. 12 Greenwood Christian Academy will play back-to-back in the IHSAA girls’ volleyball semistate Saturday at Jasper High School.
Determined GCA (25-13) meets 1A No. 1 Tecumseh (31-3) at 4 p.m. and then Roncalli (30-3) collides with No. 5 Castle (33-3) afterward. The winners advance to the IHSAA state championship matches at Ball State University in Muncie. The GCA-Tecumseh winner would face the Fort Wayne Blackhawk-Southwood winner from the Huntington North Semistate. The Roncalli-Castle winner faces the LaPorte-No. 1 Hamilton Southeastern winner.
Roncalli captured its 14th regional title Saturday by sweeping No. 17 Avon 3-0 (27-25, 25-14, 25-19) and later No. 6 Yorktown 3-1 (25-19, 10-25, 25-17, 25-18) in the nightcap.
Against scrappy Yorktown, the Royals relied upon a strong leftside hitter’s game and an alert back row for numerous serve receives and good sets that led to points.
Roncalli overcame a huge letdown against the Tigers. After winning the first set by six points, the Royals mysteriously fell 25-10.
Roncalli coach Christina Erazmus quickly huddled with her Royals in a nearby hallway to reassure them.
“I told them that we had worked too hard and that we wanted to get to semistate and stay together for another week,” she recalled. “Forget about what just happened (second set). The game of volleyball is one of ups and downs. Let’s go out and do what we did in the first set.”
The Royals never trailed in the first set that was tied twice early and jumped to an impressive 10-3 lead strengthened with two kills by Logan Bell and kills by Mackenzie Kruer, Eva Hurrle, Lily Jones, and Lyia Stahley plus an ace by Bell. The Tigers got no closer than three points and put the first set away on a Yorktown service error and Reagan Turk’s set-winning ace.
The second set was an anomaly as Yorktown dominated with an early 12-4 lead that mushroomed into a 15-point win.
The Royals regained their composure in the third set. Tied 5-5, libero Aly Kirkhoff delivered three straight aces and Stahley came up with three consecutive kills from the leftside for an 11-6 lead. Roncalli never looked back.
Bell remarked, “We fought back because we focused on being aggressive and working on our passing game.”
Roncalli maintained control and won the fourth set by seven points, appropriately capped by another kill by Stahley.
Although facing 6-2 junior middle blocker Charlotte Vinson, the Royals were able to avoid her by hitting against the Tigers’ shorter players on the front line. Vinson would up with 21 kills and four blocks.
“We were able to swing away,” Erazmus said. “Except for her (Vinson), we were taller across the front line, so we were able to run all our hitters against them. We wanted to run a faster offense and swing big. Our passing was on point except for the second set.”
The Royals spread the wealth across the front line with Bell and Stahley getting most of the kills up front with help from Kruer, Jones, and Ella Guilfoy mostly on sets from soph Addie Haberthy and multiple digs by Kirkhoff.
Roncalli was a little sluggish early against Avon, but prevailed with a three-set sweep. Tied 16-16, the Royals eked out a 21-17 lead supported with kills by Kruer and Stahley who had a coming out party in the regional. Roncalli’s final two points (27-25) came from Jones’ tip kill and a final kill by Stahley. The Royals prevailed by 11 points in the second set and six points for the sweep.
Bell led with 16 kills, 14 digs and three blocks. Haberthy put up 36 assists. Stahley added eight kills and seven digs with Jones getting seven kills.
STAHLEY’S SLAM CREATES BIG EXCITEMENT
In bottom photo, the reaction to the point scored by Stahley elicits a great reaction from her teammates on the court, including senior libero Aly Kirkhoff (1). The Royals domination at the net coupled with their passing game were keys to earning the regional trophy. The Royals collide with Castle at 5:30 p.m. Saturday for the 4A Jasper Semistate championship and a berth in the state finals in Muncie.
(SOUTHSIDER VOICE PHOTOS BY JOHN SMITH)
COUGARS WIN TWO THRILLERS AT EDINBURGH
By Al Stilley
Fortitude is the key word to Greenwood Chrisitan Academy’s success this season as the Cougars march into the Class A Jasper Semistate.
That’s the word that coach Grace Woolsey introduced to the Cougars for the season.
“I wanted them to come out and play steady, confident, and resilient,” Woolsey said. “I knew if they played that way, they could answer back with their own talents.”
Their fortitude propelled them to a nail-biting Edinburgh Regional championship by defeating No. 17 Oldenburg Academy in the opener 25-23, 27-25, 25-17 and Shakamak in the championship 26-24, 25-23, 25-22. That’s three wins by two points each in six sets.
“Our offense was firing on all cylinders all day,” Woolsey said. “What’s crazy about this team is that they are cohesive, every player on the floor contributes and they work well as a unit.”
GCA constantly attacked up front all day.
Against Shakamak, the Cougars were led by junior Addisyn Yoder up front with 13 kills. Junior outside hitter Faith Kresge provided an all-around game with 21 assists, nine kills, and three aces. Senior libero Naomi Hillenburg led with 23 digs and 32 serves received. Senior setter Savannah Danielson provided 21 assists. Sophomore Aiva Kresge had 12 digs.
Against Oldenburg, Kresge had 12 kills, Yoder nine, and Aiva Kresge eight. Yoder also had three aces.
Hillenburg had 16 digs, and Danielson and senior Milana Schundelmier had 13 digs each. Faith Kresge had 21 assists and Danielson 16.
The Cougars take a 25-13 record into the semistate.
Coach Woolsey firmly believes the Cougars turning point came in the Johnson County tourney when they stumbled against eventual champion Center Grove in the semifinal 25-18, 25-17, 25-18.
“Our losses have been to larger schools, but that game was so important to our players because they put up a big fight as an underdog,” Woolsey recalled. “They came out of that game so proud because of their competitiveness.”
It’s that kind of fortitude and confidence that has propelled the Cougars this season.