No Looking Ahead / Olympians focused on regional semifinal matchup with Trojans

A quick glance at the Indiana Prep Volleyball rankings would suggest a likely matchup between Class 4A No. 10 Columbus East and 4A No. 7 Castle in Saturday night’s Bloomington North Regional final.

But the Olympians know there is much work to be done on Saturday afternoon before they can begin thinking about Castle. To get to the final, East must first beat Center Grove in the semifinals at around 1 p.m.

“We’re trying to stay pretty positive,” East coach Ellyn McIntosh said. “We definitely don’t want to look past anybody, and we don’t want to look forward too much. We want to kind of stay in the moment. I think Center Grove is going to be a tough match. We are happy to see them. We’ve seen them before, and we know a little bit about them. We’re definitely not trying to look past them.”

The Olympians beat the Trojans 24-26, 25-19, 15-6 in the Providence Invitational on Sept. 4.

“We cannot underestimate any team,” East senior libero Cadence Gilley said. “Every team is good. We just have to go in focusing on us and do what we can do and have a good start and keep it through the rest of the games.”

Although the Olympians (27-4) have a better record and ranking than Center Grove (22-9), the teams have a similar strength of schedule.

East’s losses are to 4A No. 14 Providence, No. 11 Fishers, No. 3 Penn and No. 6 Roncalli. The Olympians later avenged the defeat against Providence.

Meanwhile, of the Trojans’ nine losses, eight have come against teams in the top 16 in 4A, including No. 1 Yorktown, No. 2 Hamilton Southeastern and No. 3 Penn.

Both East and Center Grove are riding hot streaks. Center Grove has won nine of its past 11, while East has won 18 of 20.

“I think we’re playing really well right now,” McIntosh said. “We’re right there on a positive note. We’re preparing well. We’re looking forward to matches. We’re We’re working well as a team. The girls are communicating well. So I think we’re peaking at the right time.”

Junior middle hitter Gabby Dean, an Illinois recruit, leads the Olympians with 288 kills and 92 blocks. Gilley, who is headed to Indiana State, leads the team with 350 digs and 75 aces. Senior setter Katy Jordan has 863 assists.

Other heavy hitters for East include junior Saige Stahl (235 kills, 37 blocks, 100 digs), senior Reece Whitehead (214 kills, 25 blocks, 240 digs, 37 aces), junior Libby Dippold (175 kills, 68 blocks) and sophomore Caroline Frost (96 kills, 28 blocks). Sophomore Chloe Gilley (146 digs, 43 aces) and junior Kenzie Foster (137 digs, 21 aces) help solidify the back row.

The Trojans are led by seniors Katie Egenolf (392 kills, 62 blocks, 234 digs and 31 aces), a Ball State recruit, and Avery Holubar (277 kills, 42 blocks, 275 digs, 42 aces).

“They’re mostly an offensive team,” McIntosh said. “They have one big outside. I think we can outwork them on defense.”

The winner will meet the winner of the 11 a.m. semifinal between Castle (27-2) and Floyd Central (22-11). East beat Floyd Central in straight sets to clinch the Hoosier Hills Conference title, but the Olympians have not played Castle this season.

“I know that (Castle) has a lot of experience,” McIntosh said. “They have nine seniors, so that could be an issue. We just have to prepare for either one of them. Floyd has been coming out tough lately, so I think it will be a good match either way.”

East is coming off wins against Bloomington South, Bloomington North and Martinsville in last week’s Martinsville Sectional.

“I think we have a really good chance of winning,” Dean said. “We’ve been playing really well in practice, and we’ve been playing well the past few games. So I think that momentum will definitely help carry into this weekend.”

“I’m feeling really good about this regional, and I think we all are,” Gilley added. “A few us have some nerves, but we’re pretty confident that we can go out and win this regional. We’re ready for Saturday.”