MARTINSVILLE — Trailing 24-19 in the first set of Saturday night’s volleyball sectional final, Columbus East was one point away from falling a set behind host Martinsville.
Chloe Gilley and the Olympians had other ideas.
After a sideout, the sophomore defensive specialist served six consecutive points to give Class 4A No. 10 East the win in the first set in what would become a 26-24, 25-13, 25-17 victory.
“Over and in. Just get it over and in,” Gilley said of her mindset. “I had my team on my back, and I trusted them to protect the serve, and they did their job. It really set the tone for the rest of the match because we had the momentum on our side.”
The Olympians (27-4) advance to play Center Grove in the semifinals of Saturday’s Bloomington North Regional. The regional final is Saturday night.
For most of the first set at Martinsville, it looked like that trip to regional might not happen for East. The Artesians led almost the entire set and had leads of 23-17 and 24-19 before the Olympians made their run. Set point came on a tip kill by Gabby Dean.
“We came back, and we knew we were going to win,” senior libero Cadence Gilley said. “We had the mindset of coming in and beating them in three, and we did that. We went out there and performed, and we executed and I just couldn’t be more proud.”
The second set was tied at 6-6 before East took control. The Olympians gained set point on an ace by Reece Whitehead.
“They were the team that we really wanted to draw and play them in the championship,” Whitehead said. “I feel like we played so good as a team, and we really fought back after that first set.”
After the third set was tied at 3-3, East again took control. Chloe Gilley served the final two points, with the clincher coming on a kill by Dean.
“We wanted to play them again so bad,” Dean said. “We knew this game was coming all season, and winning tonight was awesome. We came out a little bit slow in the first set, but we fought back.”
The win avenges a five-set loss to Martinsville in last year’s sectional final at East.
“I think we were stoked about it, especially since we were going to come to their home court and hopefully beat them on their home court like they beat us,” senior setter Katy Jordan said.
“We have been ready for it since the day we lost that game,” Cadence Gilley said. “We have been wanting a rematch this whole season. We’ve been ready for it, we’ve been preparing for it, and we went out and we did it.”
Dean led the Olympians with 16 kills, three assist blocks and two aces. Jordan recorded 39 assists, Cadence Gilley notched 20 digs and Kenzie Foster served two aces.
Also for East, Whitehead tallied 11 kills, two assist blocks, 11 digs and one ace; Saige Stahl pounded seven kills and two assist blocks, and Libby Dippold and Caroline Frost each had four kills and one assist block. Jordan notched nine digs, Foster added eight digs and Chloe Gilley served one ace.
“We rallied behind those tough serves and just pulled it out,” East coach Ellyn McIntosh said. “We came out strong, serving aggressive, and we stopped some of their key hitters. From there, the tide just kind of turned our way, and we kept pushing and kept them on their heels.”
The Olympians advanced to the final with a 25-11, 25-14, 25-15 semifinal win against Bloomington North earlier in the day.
Whitehead pounded 11 kills, Jordan recorded 35 assists, Dean had two solo and seven assist blocks, Cadence Gilley notched 14 digs and Foster served three aces.
Also for East, Stahl tallied 10 kills and one solo and two assist blocks, Dean added eight kills, Dippold had six kills and two solo blocks and Whitehead recorded two assist blocks, 11 digs and one ace. Frost had two assist blocks, Jordan and Chloe Gilley each notched six digs and Cadence Gilley served one ace.