As the only ranked team in the field, Columbus East is the favorite to win its fourth consecutive sectional volleyball title.
But the Class 4A co-No. 10 Olympians will have to face the second-best team in the Shelbyville Sectional in tonight’s opening round. East (25-8) will play Bloomington South (15-9) at about 7:30 p.m.
The Olympians have beaten the Panthers in straight sets twice this season. But that doesn’t mean East is taking them lightly.
“Bloomington South has great players, and they have great coaches, and it’s going to come down to who plays better that night,” East coach Stacie Pagnard said. “Everything is unpredictable, and that’s why tournament time is a great time of year.”
Meanwhile, Columbus North (10-20) will play Bloomington North (20-10) in tonight’s 6 p.m. opener. The Cougars beat the Bull Dogs in straight sets on Sept. 1, but North coach Caitlin Greiner has changed her lineup around a little since then.
“I think with each match and each week, we have progressively gotten better, and we’ve improved tremendously from the start of the season, so I think it is a very, very realistic goal to be able to beat them,” Greiner said. “They are a solid team, but I think if we play to the best of our ability, we have a good chance.”
Tonight’s winners will play each other in the semifinals at 11 a.m. Saturday. East Central and Shelbyville meet in the second semifinal, and the championship match will be at 7 p.m. Saturday.
North favored at semistate
Since the IHSAA moved the Columbus North cross-country teams from the Carmel Semistate to the Brown County Semistate in 2012, the Bull Dog boys and girls haven’t lost in that round of the tournament.
North will be solid favorites to win again Saturday at Brown County. The boys will be seeking their seventh consecutive semistate crown, while the girls will look for their fourth in a row.
The second-ranked Bull Dogs girls could face challenges from No. 11 Bloomington North, No. 16 Seymour, No. 17 Bloomington South, No. 23 Jasper and No. 24 Floyd Central. Besides The No. 7 North boys, the only other ranked teams in that race are No. 21 Tell City and No. 22 Bloomington South.
“I think both our teams are on a good roll in terms of the how we’re doing in practice and our racing performances,” North coach Rick Weinheimer said. “Without necessarily putting an eye on other teams, I know our teams are ready to do well on Saturday.”
The Columbus East girls, Seymour boys and Jennings County boys and girls also will be competing, along with East individual boys runner Paul Bean and Brown County individuals Cole Chudy and Corrissa Proctor.
The East girls are making their fourth consecutive semistate appearance. Their third-place regional finish was their best during that span.
“We’re going in with the same game plan we had for regional,” East girls coach Leslie Weaver said. “Last weekend, we had lots of (personal records), and I would say that we are peaking at the right time.”
The top six teams and top 10 individuals not on a qualifying team advance to the Oct. 31 state finals.
North boys lead standings
The Columbus North boys are on track to defend their Conference Indiana All-Sports championship, but the girls have some catching up to do in an attempt to defend theirs.
Through the fall sports season, the Bull Dog boys have 30 points. Bloomington South is second with 28, and Bloomington North is third with 25.
Bloomington South leads the Columbus North girls 31-25. Bloomington North (24) and Terre Haute North (23) are right behind the Bull Dogs.
Columbus North won conference titles in boys and girls cross-country and finished second in boys soccer and girls golf.
Players named All-District
Four players from Columbus East and four Columbus North have been named to the All-District 8 team.
East seniors Alex Galle and JoJo Woolwine and North seniors Aditya Mantri and Kevin Luo made the team as singles players, along with Jennings County senior Owen Land. East juniors Sammy Woolwine and Matt Furnish and North junior Nathan VanDeventer and freshman Kevin Lin made it as doubles players.
East teams hosting Chili-Dip
The Columbus East boys and girls golf teams will host the Chili-Dip Open at 11 a.m. Nov. 7 at Otter Creek Golf Course.
Cost is $50 per person and includes greens fees, cart, chili and other goodies, with proceeds going toward golf instruction and to pay for uniforms, golf bags and other expenses for the East boys and girls teams.
To register, text Jeff Smith at 812-344-4109 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.