(SOUTHSIDER VOICE PHOTOS BY STEVE PAGE)
Royals power to sectional title
A year ago, Brebeuf Jesuit ousted Roncalli from the sectional tournament.
“We lost this last year to a Brebeuf team that had been to state,” said Royals coach Christina Erazmus. “The girls were hungry to take it back.”
So they did.
With a hustling back row setting up a tall front row, the Royals attacked Perry Meridian 25-20, 25-6 and 25-20 in Saturday night’s championship match at Ben Davis.
Roncalli, 28-3, and Avon, 23-9, will travel to Greenfield-Central to play in the second regional semifinal at noon Saturday, Oct. 21. Yorktown, 26-5, plays Cathedral, 29-4, in the 10 a.m. semifinal. The championship match follows at 7 p.m.
Perry had advanced to Saturday’s match by sweeping Ben Davis, then topping Brebeuf Jesuit in four games, while Roncalli swept past Southport and Pike.
To their credit, the shorter Falcons battled the Royals, keeping the first and third games close.
But the Royals displayed all their ability and spirit in the second game, scoring the first seven points, adding another seven-point run at midpoint, then closing the game with a 7-1 run.
Those in the back row kept the ball in play, passing it forward to the front liners, including 6-1 Lily Jones and 5-11 Logan Bell.
They made the most of their opportunities, spiking the ball or redirecting it past Falcon defenders.
Bell was especially notable, slamming kill after kill, sometimes despite the hands of PM blockers. On one occasion, the Falcons blocked one of her kills, only to have her fire the ball right back for a successful kill.
“She really wants the ball,” said Erazmus. “She’s a deadly shooter. Sometimes, she misses, but we have all the confidence in her.”
Bell said her game plan is simple.
“I just really want to place the ball, move the defense and take out the setter,” she said. “Just play for my teammates.
“The back row does a great job. They keep us in the match, keep us scrappy, help us do what we do best.”
In that respect, both back lines did a great job of keeping the ball in play.
The opener was tied six times before the Royals went on a 9-2 tear for a 16-11 lead. But the Falcons, with senior Arabella Shepherd serving, scored the next four points, including a block by Peyton Kocher and Nadia Kriech and an ace by Shepherd.
From there, the score see-sawed until the Royals scored the last three points, including a kill by Bell that was just inside the back line.
The Falcons took off in the third game, scoring eight straight points, including kills by Kendall Kocher and Sophia Mayo and a block by Kendall Brookbank that pushed their lead to 10-3.
Roncalli battled back, with libero Aly Kirkhoff serving an ace, Mackenzie Kruer blocking an attempt and Addie Haberthy firing a kill. The Royals, leading 21-20, closed the game, and the match, as Jones fired back-to-back kills, Eva Hurrle turned a diving dig into a point and Kruer and Ella Stone ended it with a block.
Erazmus noted the play of junior Skylar Kritzmire, who subbed for injured Lydia Stahley.
Bell totaled 19 kills, Kruer seven, Kritzmire six and Jones five. The Royals totaled 43 kills. Kirkhoff and Bell had 10 digs each, and Reagan Turk and Haberthy eight each as Roncalli had 49 digs. Haberthy set up 33 assists. Bell had 14 serve receives with just two errors. Turk had nine receives, Kirkhoff eight and Eva Hurrle six, all without an error.
Falcon coach Zach Ridener said it wasn’t for lack of trying.
“We put a lot of time in for this: 6 a.m. to 8 a.m. practices, so we could get the work done early,” he said.
“Everyone was there. I couldn’t be more proud, especially with the back row. We wanted to be in the championship game with Roncalli. Our seniors turned it up this year, made us better.”
Those seniors are Mayo, Shepherd, Isabel Egan, Alani Duncan, Lucy Richardson and Dakota Elliott.