Based on common opponents throughout the season, Thursday’s volleyball matchup between crosstown rivals Columbus East and Columbus North looked like it would be a close matchup.
It lived up to the billing.
In the end, the Olympians came out with the victory. After an intense first set, East carried the momentum forward and prevailed 31-29, 25-18, 26-24.
“There was a lot of emotion in this game,” said East senior Bailey Western, who finished with 16 kills, three aces, and three blocks. “It’s exciting. The fans are noisy, and you can feel the tension when you play. We just went out and stayed focus and played together as a team.”
In the first set, the Olympians (15-7) had a 20-15 lead, but the Bull Dogs (14-10) stormed back to take the lead at 24-23. The teams traded points until East gave the final push.
That was a huge turning point of the match for the Olympians.
“We talked about the environment and using it to our advantage,” East coach Stacie Pagnard said. “We are getting closer to tournament time, and we need these experiences. Winning the first set really propelled us, and we started using that environment to our advantage.”
The Olympians jumped out quickly to distance themselves from North in the second set. East jumped out to a 19-9 lead and never let up.
The Bull Dogs stayed tough and didn’t quit, making the Olympians earn the third set. After East had an 18-13 lead, North stormed back to retake the lead at 21-20. The Olympians were able to close by outscoring North 6-3 down the stretch.
“With this rivalry, it is always very high emotion and very high intensity …,” North coach Caitlin Greiner said. “East happened to take the first. We really rebounded well and never gave up and fought, and that is something we have been working on as a team. They kept their composure and didn’t roll over and kept pushing back.”
For East, Kendal Williams tallied 45 assists. Cortney VanLiew finished with 23 kills and 13 digs, Brooke Banister had 10 digs, Alaysha Pollert added seven digs and Allison Mack served two aces.
For North, Mady Johnson dished out 33 assists, and Hannah Weaver pounded a career-high 16 kills to go along with seven digs and two aces. Maliah Howard-Bass had nine kills and four blocks, Imani Guy finished with eight kills and four blocks. Maddy Sebahar added five digs and an ace, Agustina Fainguesch finished with eight kills and eight digs and Mackenzie Rooks had 11 digs.
“We have a few weeks until tournament time starts, and we know what we need to work on,” Greiner said. “This is a great parameter to where we are at and where we need to go. These girls are improving. They are determined, and they want it.”