MADISON — Seymour gave Columbus East a major headache during the championship match of Saturday’s Hoosier Hills Conference volleyball tournament.
But the Olympians came through at the end of both sets to pull out a 30-28, 25-23 victory and capture their first HHC title since 2012.
East (19-4), ranked No. 11 in Class 4A, was playing catch-up during the grueling first set. They had some miscommunications that gave the Owls (12-11) several set points.
When the Olympians communication finally got resolved, they found a way to come back and prevail. They turned to their top hitter, Cortney VanLiew, who had great help from Kendal Williams setting her up to help score four of the final five points in the first set.
The momentum carried over into the second set as East established great teamwork to jump out to an early 11-6 lead. The Olympians slammed the door shut at any comeback attempt by Seymour to hold on and capture the set and championship.
“We have to rely on each other to get the job done and to make the right passes,” said VanLiew, who finished with 36 kills, 22 digs and four blocks for the tournament. “Whenever things start to get stressful during the game, we can always count on each other to lighten it up just a bit.”
“We strive for perfect effort,” said senior captain Katie Mack, who recorded 18 kills, 16 digs and three blocks.
This championship is a special moment for Mack, as well as fellow seniors Brooke Statler, Lauren Baugh and Kortney Thalls in their final season at East.
“It’s so awesome, and I love playing with this team,” Mack said. “We all have big personalities and we act so weird and crazy off the court, but we all fit together and always have each other’s back.”
Mack was also excited to have the team finally get the proverbial monkey off their back after Floyd Central knocked out the Olympians the past two years in the HHC Tournament. East knocked off its nemesis 28-30, 25-19, 25-18 in the opening round on Saturday.
“It feels amazing to have finally beaten (Floyd Central), especially my senior year,” Mack said. “It is kind of the same thing with Seymour, too, we have this rivalry with them, as well.”
East coach Stacie Pagnard had a lot of trust in her role players and was glad to see them pull through.
“We talked about this in the beginning of the season that if we are going to great, our role players have to step up at big times, and this was as big of a moment that they could get playing in a conference championship,” Pagnard said.
Seymour coach Holly Birdsong said she liked her team coming out strong in the beginning against the Olympians.
“We played pretty hard,” Birdsong said. “We came out ready to play, but we just are not confident enough in a lot of things that we do. Players were running into each other, but I was pleased with their play in the final game.”
In the semifinal round, East prevailed against New Albany 25-11, 25-20. After dropping the first set to Floyd Central, Pagnard was glad to see the team not giving up.
“In Game 1 against Floyd, we had two set points, and our errors hurt us there,” Pagnard said. “It made us really hungry, and I think it really showed in our drive to come back and win when really we should have gotten the first set.”
Williams tallied 87 assists, Thalls finished with 16 kills and six blocks, Brooke Banister had 18 digs and three aces, Bailey Western finished with 19 kills and six blocks and AJ Pollert added 25 digs for the Olympians.
Seymour downed Jeffersonville 25-9, 25-10 in the opening round. In the semifinals, Bedford North Lawrence proved to be much harder, but the Owls prevailed 25-17, 21-25, 25-20.
“We played great in our opening match and took care of business in two games,” Birdsong said. “Against Bedford, we kind of slowed down a little and did not play as well. They may have been overconfident a bit, thinking that it was going to be easy.”
Jennings County bounced back from a 25-16, 25-14 first-round loss to Bedford North Lawrence to beat Jeffersonville 10-25, 25-21, 26-24. The Panthers then fell to Floyd Central 25-16, 25-14 to finish sixth.
Carissa Kinney led Jennings (6-19) with 30 assists, five blocks and eight aces. Emma McPeek pounded eight kills, and Rayann Mull had 41 digs.
Kinney added seven kills and 20 digs, while Katie Schneider recorded seven kills and eight digs and Katelyn Madinger had seven kills, three assists and eight digs. Emma McPeek notched four blocks, and Mary Leahigh added two blocks and two aces.
“We didn’t play really that bad against Floyd Central, so we ended things on a really good note,” Jennings coach Susan Kinney said. “We started out really, really slow in our opening game, though, but we finished strong.”