East rolls: Olympians oust Center Grove

When Center Grove rallied from a two-set deficit to win the third set Tuesday night, the Trojans had all the momentum.

Columbus East wouldn’t let them keep it.

The host Olympians pulled out the fourth set to finish off a 25-21, 25-17, 23-25, 25-23 victory against Class 4A No. 6 Center Grove to capture their first regional title since 2013.

“I think the key was to really maintain focus throughout the whole thing,” senior Cortney VanLiew said. “I think in Game 3, we let that slip a little bit instead of staying solid, and during that fourth game, we really came out and did that. Before Game 4, we said, ‘We’ve got to get it done. We have to play our game,’ and I think, honestly, we all fulfilled that.”

East (26-11) moves on to its own semistate on Saturday, where it will host Avon in the second semifinal at around 12:30 p.m. Cathedral and Floyd Central will meet in the 11 a.m. opener, and the title game will be at 7 p.m.

The semistate winner will play for the state championship Nov. 5 at Ball State.

“It’s very emotional, very exciting,” senior Bailey Western said. “I’m glad to be in this position. It’s a good place to be right now.”

Western came up big for the Olympians at the end. With the fourth set tied at 23, she and setter Kendal Williams combined on a block that gave East the lead.

Western then pounded a kill for set and match point.

“It kind of got close there, so we just had to do what we could and what what we know to do best out there on the court — just go out and put the ball down and finish it off,” Western said.

The first set was tied at 21 before the Olympians got a side out, and Allison Mack served three consecutive points to finish if off. East never trailed in the second set, pulling away in the middle of the set.

The Olympians jumped out to a 9-6 lead in the third set, but the Trojans came back to take a 12-11 lead. Then, after East evened it at 12, Center Grove ran off six straight points to take an 18-12 advantage. The Olympians came back to within 23-22 and 24-23 before the Trojans took the set.

The fourth set was tied at 5-5 before East got a sideout, and Brooke Banister served five consecutive points for an 11-5 lead. Center Grove rallied to tie it at 22-22 and 23-23 before Western’s late heroics.

“It’s just an amazing feeling, especially to do it with the girls surrounding me,” VanLiew said. “They’re such big supporters of each other, especially the seven seniors. We’ve been through so much together, and it’s just awesome to do that together.”

VanLiew led the Olympians with 27 kills and 20 digs, while Western added 21 kills and six blocks. Banister served two aces.

Adyin Rager came off the bench in the third and fourth sets to make some big serves.

“Cortney and Bailey, they’re studs, but Ady was huge with her serving and her defense,” East coach Stacie Pagnard said. “She made some really good defensive plays.”

Pagnard was most proud of junior setter Kendal Williams. Williams led the Olympians with 55 assists and added six kills, three blocks, 18 digs and an ace in here battle with Center Grove freshman setter M.J. Hammill.

“She’s kind of the unsung hero with her defense,” Pagnard said. “I told them before the game the best defending setter wins that match, and I feel like Kendal did that. She defended, and she worked her tail off.”

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Ted Schultz is sports editor for The Republic. He can be reached at tschultz@therepublic.com or 812-379-5628.