GREENWOOD — The Columbus East volleyball team stretched Center Grove as far as it could without winning a game.
The Class 4A No. 4 Trojans slipped past the co-No. 10 Olympians 25-23, 25-22, 25-23 on Tuesday night. The Trojans (31-5) advance to a Seymour Semistate semifinal meeting with Avon (28-8).
“They’re a good team, and that’s why both are sectional champions and we’re playing each other this time of the year,” East coach Stacie Pagnard said. “They had two seniors (Madison Smeathers and Taylor Hammill) who are great leaders, and they’ve never been to a semistate. They’re pushing for a state championship.”
This is Center Grove’s first trip to the semistate since 2009.
“Columbus East is a really good team,” Trojans coach Dana Matis said. “We had a hard time stopping their outsides at the beginning. We made the adjustment. It was good we played really well in a tight pressure situation, and we were able to continue to play aggressive and get the match in three sets. It’s huge.”
In the opening set, the Olympians (28-9) got off to an 11-5 lead before Center Grove came storming back to take an 18-14 lead. East forged a 23-all tie before the Trojans got the last two points.
In the final set, Center Grove actually lost the lead at 23-22 but won the last three points.
“We’ve been in situations like that a lot in practice, and the girls can’t get frustrated,” Matis said. “Columbus East kept digging the ball and digging the ball. It was good they stay aggressive and kept swinging. I thought our defense made some phenomenal plays. It was a great team win.”
Matis said the outside hitters played really smart.
“They were crafty with the ball,” Matis said. “Everyone showed up.”’
This was Pagnard’s first year as Olympians coach.
“This has been a great program for years,” Pagnard said. “Working with these kids has been an honor. Their work ethic is second to none. I expect great things from them in the future because of that.”
East will lose four seniors — defensive specialist Lauren Baugh, middle hitter Kortney Thalls, outside hitter Katie Mack and right-side hitter Brooke Statler.
“They are four seniors who provide different things. They all do something different, but they are huge components of what we do on the court,” Pagnard said. “They’ll be missed from a leadership aspect.”
Cortney VanLiew pounded 16 kills for the Olympians. Mack delivered 10 kills, two blocks and 16 digs. Bailey Western had three blocks. AJ Pollert notched 15 digs.
“I was so proud of how we battle defensively,” Pagnard said. “We played every point like it was our last. That’s all I can ask for as a coach.”
Smeathers led the Trojans with 14 kills. Junior outside hitter Macy Carrabine had 11 kills and senior outside hitter Malea Howie added eight kills.
“Macy did a great job,” Matis said. “She really stepped up and played aggressive.”
Carrabine said the team showed a lot of fight and played well as a team.
“I’m a new outside hitter,” Carrabine said. “I’m normally a libero. It’s been a tough transition but it’s been good. We had couple of people hurt. They’ve helped me improve a lot so it’s been good.”