Olympians fend off Panthers in 4 sets

MARTINSVILLE — After needing four sets to win at Bloomington South during the regular season, Class 4A No. 10 Columbus East expected a challenge from the Panthers when the teams met again Thursday in the opening round of the Martinsville Sectional.

Bloomington South provided those challenges in each of four sets this time, but the Olympians were able to pull out a 25-18, 25-19, 20-25, 25-16 victory.

The Panthers jumped out to a 10-5 lead in first set before the Olympians (25-4) came back. The second set was tied 15-15 and 19-19 before East scored the final six points, the last coming on a kill by Gabby Dean.

In the third set, the Panthers jumped out to leads of 7-3 and 10-5. The Olympians got back to within 11-10, fell behind 16-11 pulled within 17-16 and 19-18 before Bloomington South ended the set on a 6-1 run.

“I think the girls are always just a little bit nervous in that first set,” East coach Ellyn McIntosh said. “We kind of evened our play out in that second set, but then that third set, we were back to making too many mistakes.”

The Panthers rode that momentum to a 10-9 lead in the fourth set. It was tied at 12-12 before an 8-2 run gave East a 20-14 lead, and the Olympians were able to close it out from there, finishing on a tip kill from Dean.

“Our serving stepped up,” McIntosh said. “We were serving aggressively. We had a couple of aces at the end of our runs that helped things out.”

Gabby Dean led East with 17 kills and two solo and three assist blocks. Katy Jordan recorded 40 assists, Kenzie Foster notched 16 digs and Cadence Gilley served five aces.

Also for the Olympians, Reece Whitehead tallied 13 kills, 12 digs and four aces; Libby Dippold pounded nine kills and one assist block and Saige Stahl added eight kills and three assist blocks. Caroline Frost had five kills and one assist block, Cadence Gilley addeed 15 digs, Jordan notched 12 digs, Chloe Gilley contributed six digs and one ace and Foster served one ace.

East advances to Saturday’s sectional semifinal, where it will meet Bloomington North at around 1 p.m. The winner will play the winner of the Martinsville-Bedford North Lawrence semifinal for the title at 7 p.m. Saturday.