(SOUTHSIDER VOICE PHOTOS BY AL STILLEY)
“We learn as we go.”
That comment from Center Grove girls’ volleyball coach Jen Gandolph Hawk explains the Trojans’ success this season, including their latest IHSAA sectional championship Saturday at Greenwood.
The Trojans defeated a strong Bloomington North team, 3-1 in the opening semifinal match Saturday before sweeping determined but outmanned Greenwood, 3-0 for the sectional trophy. Greenwood reached the title match by sweeping Mooresville earlier.
Against Bloomington North, the Trojans won the first two sets (25-21, 25-17), dropped the third (25-23), and took the fourth (25-22) in a thriller to advance. The Panthers pushed CG to five sets during the season.
“We knew that would be a tough match for us,” Hawk explained. “We couldn’t let up; it was a good intense match.”
The nightcap against host Greenwood was less harrowing. The Trojans prevailed early with a heavy outside hitting attack 25-14, 25-11, 25-10. The Woodmen scored the first points in the first two sets but never led the third set.
The Trojans have nine consecutive sectional championships and seventh-most in the state with 35.
The Trojans’ attack was led by 6-0 junior Ellen Zapp with 14 kills and key blocks from the 6-3 duo of middle blockers, senior Ava Mardis and junior Reese Dunkle.
“We had to come out and be solid, and our outside hitters did that,” senior outside hitter Sophie Sabol said afterward. “We knew we would be able to win (sectional) if we worked together and we did that in our first game. Then we had to keep that same intensity against Greenwood.”
The Woodmen showed a solid back row that handled several attempted hard kills with digs and returns by seniors Abigail Wilham and Addison Whitecotton and sophomore Victoria Ortman. Up front, 5-8 junior outside hitter Karissa Harris came up with seven kills.
The taller Trojans front line prevailed with five blocks from Natalie Vance and more blocks from Dunkle, Mardis, and Emma Leavett. Many of Zapp’s kills came from sets by freshman Annabelle Schembra after digs by libero Sheridan Young and junior Maddi Higginson.
“We try to be as balanced (attack) as we can,” Hawk explained after securing the title trophy. “We went with what we were given tonight. Our passing early was a bit shaky, so we had to rely on our outside hitters a bit more. We got our blocking going and everybody settled in.”
Hawk said the Trojans would work on “fine-tuning small little skills” as they prepare for the Bloomington North Regional against Floyd Central (23-10) at 1 p.m., Saturday. Favored Castle (31-3) meets Franklin (23-8) in the opener at 11 a.m. The winners meet at 7 p.m.
Center Grove is 26-5 and has a mix of five seniors and young talent.
“We’re playing well and playing together,” Hawk said. “We got great touches tonight from our back row. Everybody had their moments to shine in both matches.”
Greenwood handled Mooresville 25-23, 25-3, 25-19 in the morning semi to advance. The Woodmen posted a 12-17 record but finished 4-4.