The Columbus East volleyball team put area teams on notice that they do not fold under pressure.
The Olympians, ranked sixth in Class 4A, proved why they were deserving of the ranking after withstanding several challenges during their own invitational Saturday.
In the championship match against Bloomington South, East wasted no time taking care of business. The Olympians claimed a 25-18, 25-19 victory to move to 7-0 for the season.
“We are starting to finally find the flow of the game,” East senior middle hitter Bailey Western said. “We are communicating very well and are where we need to be as a team, which is nice. We are starting to figure things out.”
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The road getting to the championship, however, was not easy by any stretch of the imagination. Class 3A No. 6 Silver Creek stood in East’s path.
The Olympians struggled early in that match, dropping the first set 27-25. In the final two sets, they kicked it into overdrive.
After holding off a Dragons charge in the second set to win 25-23, they easily won the third set 25-15.
“Communication was the key in that match,” Western said.
In East’s first two matches, it downed East Central 25-16, 25-13 and Indianapolis Ritter 26-24, 25-18.
“It wasn’t always pretty, but they were able to focus on the small aspects of the game,” East coach Stacie Pagnard said. “We played a complete game against Bloomington South to end the day, which was really nice to see. We have a lot of different options offensively. The serving and passing was solid, and that has allowed us to take the next step.”
Pagnard added that everyone on the team contributed.
“We have a lot of talent on this roster, and that is why we are so deep,” she said. “I like the mentality of our team and how hard they work and how they are willing to learn.”
Kendal Williams picked up 114 assists for the tournament. Cortney VanLiew finished with 47 kills and 22 digs. Western added 37 kills and five blocks. Brooke Banister had 21 digs and seven aces. Alaysha Pollert led the team with 29 digs and added three aces. CJ Clausen led with eight blocks.
“I’m very impressed with everyone because we are a well-rounded team,” VanLiew said. “Our depth is going to be very good for us in the long run.”
Bloomington South kept things close early in each set before the Olympians started to pull away. Tied at 14-14 in the first, the serving of Banister and Pollert helped extend the lead to 23-16.
In the second, the Panthers got it to within 20-19 before East scored five straight points to close it out.
VanLiew said it was great to have such huge fan support.
“It helps to know when they are backing us up,” she said. “Having them all cheering for us, it helps us out so much.”