After falling way short in the first two sets, Columbus East was on the verge of getting blown out of its own gym Saturday afternoon.
But the Olympians wouldn’t let a blowout happen. Although they weren’t able to rally for a win, they came back to make things interesting in a 25-18, 25-10, 22-25, 25-20 loss to Class 4A No. 2 Avon in the semifinals of the East Semistate.
“I just think it’s a testament to our will,” East coach Stacie Pagnard said. “Our seniors willed that to happen.”
The Olympians (26-12) jumped out to a 9-3 lead in the third set. It was 3-3 before they got a sideout, and Cortney VanLiew served five consecutive points.
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The lead stayed between three and six points until the Orioles cut it to 24-22. But then a kill by VanLiew gave East the set and put them back in the match.
“I think we realized it’s a do-or-die situation, and this is what we need to do it we want to move on,” VanLiew said. “We needed to step up and make the plays that we needed to make.”
Unfortunately for the Olympians, the momentum didn’t carry over to the fourth set. Avon jumped out to a 7-3 lead. East recovered to tie it at 7-7 behind the serving of Allison Mack, but the Orioles answered with four consecutive points.
Trailing 23-17, the Olympians came back to within 23-20 on a sideout and back-to-back kills by VanLiew. But two East hitting errors clinched the set and match for Avon.
“I’m still proud of the team, no matter how we played,” VanLiew said.
East led 5-3 in the first set and was within 7-6 before the Orioles scored four in a row to pull away. Avon increased the lead to 20-12 and cruised from there.
The second set was tied at 7-7 before the Orioles closes the set with an 18-3 run.
“I think their size got to us the first two sets,” Pagnard said. “The third set, we were more relaxed passing, and we were able to handle the ball and get into our offense.”
VanLiew led the Olympians with 22 kills and 15 digs. Kendal Williams recorded 37 assists, Bailey Western had four blocks and Seena Greiwe served two aces.
Western also pounded eight kills, and Williams added five kills and 14 digs. C.J. Clausen had two blocks, and Brooke Banister notched 11 digs and an ace.
Saturday’s loss came a week after East won its fourth consecutive sectional title. On Tuesday, the Olympians won their first regional crown since 2013.
“It was a good finish for the up-and-down season we had,” Pagnard said. “We really were playing our best ball there at the end, and that’s all you can ask.”