With two of the state’s top back-row players at her disposal, Columbus East volleyball coach Stacie Pagnard faces a conundrum about who to put in the libero position.
But with seniors Brooke Banister and Alaysha Pollert digging everything in sight, Pagnard sees the surplus as more of a blessing than a curse.
“They compete every single day,” Pagnard said. “They’ve held true to that, but more importantly, they’ve been great teammates through it. They’re each other’s biggest cheerleader, and that’s unique to see in the high school game because there’s a lot of high school kids that get petty and get selfish, and those two are definitely very far from it.”
Pollert was the Olympians’ libero last year, and Banister also played in the back row. At the beginning of this season, Banister and Pollert alternated at libero, sometimes from set to set.
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The past couple of weeks, Banister has taken over the libero rule exclusively.
“It’s definitely competitive,” Banister said. “Every day in practice, every drill, we are both on each other’s heels all the time.”
Fortunately for the pair, whichever one doesn’t play libero still can play one of the other back-row spots. But while the libero plays all six rotations, defensive specialists play only three.
But that doesn’t mean the defensive specialist will try any less.
“I think it kind of pushes us a little more because we fight harder in practice, and it gives us more drive to really work hard,” Pollert said. “Being a (defensive specialist) is the same way. You’re still a part of the team. You’re still going to give your full effort. No matter what the outcome is, we still want to be there for our team, so we’ll still give it 100 percent.”
Pollert leads East with 326 digs. Banister ranks third on the squad with 206 digs.
Pagnard said the biggest thing the pair bring is their serve-receive passing efficiency. With a system that allows for the offense to run an array of plays, their improved passing percentage allows for those to take place.
“They’re always looking to get better and always looking to compete,” Pagnard said.
They’ll certainly do that tonight when the Olympians host Class 4A No. 6 Center Grove in the regional round. The Trojans beat East in three close sets in last year’s regional.
The Olympians (25-11) struggled against some of the top teams on their schedule, including Center Grove, this season. But East rebounded by closing the regular season by finishing second in a loaded Carmel Invitational, then won three straight-set matches in last week’s East Central Sectional.
“At the beginning of the year, we knew we had a tough schedule ahead of us,” Pollert said. “We were playing the top teams in the state and in the nation. But we really worked hard to get where we have, and in the Carmel (tournament), we just peaked, and we’re ready.”
“We’re playing awesome,” Banister said. “I’m really proud of everybody. We’re all playing together. We’re only going up from here.”
What: Center Grove at Columbus East in volleyball regional
When: 7 p.m. today
Where: Columbus East High School
Advancement: Winner moves on to Saturday’s Columbus East Semistate