NORTH VERNON — Jennings County went toe to toe with Columbus East early in each set of Tuesday night’s Hoosier Hills conference volleyball match.
It did not take much longer after that for the Panthers to realize why the Olympians are one of the state’s top teams in Class 4A.
Once No. 6-ranked East got going, there was no stopping it as they would win in straight sets, 25-11, 25-12, 25-12.
Junior Cortney VanLiew was happy when the Olympians finally found their groove after a rough start.
“We started to play a lot better together more than when we were early on,” said VanLiew, who finished with 13 kills and 10 digs. “We were just playing individually, and a lot of times our communication is not always there to start. Once we started communicating, it helped us go off on some big scoring runs to close out the sets.”
East (6-0) held only a 12-10 advantage in the first set and was tied with Jennings (0-9) 8-8 in the second set.
Olympians coach Stacie Pagnard credited the Panthers for keeping them off-balance to start.
“They were passing the ball very well,” Pagnard said. “They have some good, physical kids that can take real good swings at the ball. I told the girls if we do not start serving the ball, they are going to do whatever they want out there at will offensively.”
Once East was able to control the serve, it pulled away in each set. The Olympians went on a 13-1 run to close out the first set and went a 17-4 run to end the second set.
“Our serves definitely took them out of it, and it only helped us out on defense more,” Pagnard said. “It helped give us a quick transition offense and push the tempo up the middles.”
Jennings coach Susan Kinney said that her team just has to find a way to play consistently throughout each set.
“There were some bright spots that I saw tonight,” Kinney said. “We now have to find a way to put it all together. We have to hold each other accountable, work each other harder at practice. We know we are going to make mistakes, so we cannot linger on that when it happens.”
For the Olympians, Bailey Western had 14 kills, Brooke Banister had 15 digs, Kendal Williams finished with 25 assists and AJ Pollert added 19 assists.
For the Panthers, Katelyn Madinger recorded five kills and five digs and Denza Simpson also had five digs. Mary Leahigh, a freshman who recently was promoted to varsity over the weekend, had two blocks and two assists.