Artesians hold off improved Bull Dogs

MARTINSVILLE — From an early-season loss to Martinsville to Tuesday night’s sectional-opening defeat on the Artesians’ home court, Columbus North volleyball coach Jenna Ortega was proud of how much improvement her team made.

The Bull Dogs came close in the third set, but couldn’t quite get over the hump, and Class 4A No. 16 Martinsville finished off a 25-19, 25-13, 26-24 victory in the Martinsville Sectional.

“We played so much better tonight than we did the first time we played them,” Ortega said. “I think just from the beginning to where we are now, we grew as a team. They have improved tremendously on and off the court. It was too easy to give up, and we didn’t do that. They’ve improved so much, and that’s all I can ask for as a coach.”

North (9-22) was within 18-15 in the first set until the Artesians (25-5) went on a four-point run to pull away. The Bull Dogs were as close as 8-7 after an Emily Stair ace in the second set, but after that, the set was all Martinsville.

The third set was a different story. North jumped out to leads of 3-0 and 7-2. The Artesians came back to take the lead, but the Bull Dogs went back ahead 15-13 on an ace by Sydney Cooper. North last led at 18-17, but after that, Martinsville never led by more than one point until the final point of the match.

“I was really excited from the beginning, and then we struggled with our passing again,” Ortega said. “We just have to jump out from the beginning and stay there. Coming back that third set, I feel like they were proving themselves. Unfortunately, we just came up a little short.”

Sarah Bennett recorded seven kills and one block, and Cooper had seven digs and two aces to lead the Bull Dogs. Reagan Kane tallied 22 assists, and Stair served two aces.

Also for North, Kayla Jones pounded four kills, and Grace Chapman notched six digs.

“I think there’s been so much negative from the past, we wanted to build the program back up,” Ortega said. “I’m excited for the future of our program because we’re just going to build from here and keep pushing.”

Martinsville advances to play Bedford North Lawrence in Saturday’s first semifinal at 11 a.m.

Class 4A No. 10 Columbus East will play Bloomington South at 6 p.m. Thursday, with Bloomington North and East Central to follow. Those winners will meet in the second semifinal at around 1 p.m. Saturday.

The sectional final is at 7 p.m. Saturday.