ST. LEON — After knocking off two tough competitors in the East Central volleyball sectional, Columbus East wanted to make sure Bloomington North did not stand much of a chance.
The Cougars did not go away so easily.
But Bloomington North’s added pressure did not ruin the celebration for the Olympians. They turned up the aggression and never gave in, rolling to a 25-21, 25-17, 28-26 win for their fourth straight sectional title.
East (25-11) now hosts Center Grove, which defeated Franklin in four sets, in the regional on Tuesday.
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The sectional title was a special moment for the seven Olympian seniors.
“It’s exciting to keep it in our four years,” said senior Bailey Western, who has committed to play at Northern Kentucky. “It’s pretty awesome.”
It was also emotional for senior Cortney VanLiew, knowing she has captured her final sectional crown with the team.
“We put in a lot of work over the last 11 months,” said VanLiew, who will play at Florida Gulf Coast. “Just to see everyone work so hard is really amazing.”
With a brutal schedule that East has faced this year, there have been some doubts about their chances at making a deep run in the state tournament because they have not gone over the hump and beat some of the top tier teams in Class 4A. The Olympians will have another chance on Tuesday.
Senior Alaysha Pollert hopes to make some noise and prove that they rank among the top teams in the state and avenge a regular-season loss to Center Grove.
“We’re ready for it, Pollert said. “We are peaking right now. We are ready for the next step and to face the competition. Being our senior year, this is our last chance our last round before we’re off to college. We are leaving on a good note already, but we’re ready for more.”
“We were in those tight games, but we had simple miscommunications and errors,” VanLiew said. “With the work we have put putting in since the Carmel loss (on Oct. 15), we are going to come out and surprise a lot of people.”
East came out of the gate hot and pulled out to an early 11-3 lead in the first set. The Cougars came back to make things briefly interesting, but the lead the Olympians had built helped them maintain the advantage and close out the set.
Things stayed even early in the second set. Tied 4-4, Pollert served four straight points to put East in front 8-4. Bloomington North came back to within 14-12, but the serving of Kendal Williams and a couple of kills by VanLiew pushed the lead back up to 20-12.
In the third set, the Olympians built a 22-18 lead, but the Cougars stormed back by going on 5-1 run to tie it at 23-23. With Bloomington South having a set point at 26-25, East bounced back and won the final three points to close out the match.
“We just had a lot of adrenaline and knew if we pulled this out and won, we would be sectional champions,” East senior Seena Greiwe said. “It feels great as a senior to win, especially with my teammates.”
VanLiew finished with 15 kills and 19 digs, Williams dished out 38 assists, McKenna Chandler had three blocks, Brooke Banister recorded 12 digs and Greiwe served one ace. Western added two blocks and 16 kills.
East coach Stacie Pagnard was happy for the team, especially the seniors.
“It’s special because they all have a unique role,” Pagnard said. “They are unique individuals that makes this such a special senior class. It was important for me to find a role for each and every one of them. It means the world to me that they can go out winning four in a row because they deserve it and are really good kids off the court.”
Earlier in the day, East beat Bloomington South 25-18, 25-16, 25-17 in the semifinals. VanLiew notched 23 kills and 26 digs, Williams tallied 42 assists. Western finished with 16 kills and four blocks, C.J. Clausen added four blocks, Banister had 20 digs and Pollert added 14 digs.