BLOOMINGTON — Columbus East built itself plenty of momentum early on in Saturday night’s regional final against Castle at Bloomington North.
However, at the end of the first set, a controversial carry violation by the Olympians turned around the momentum of the match.
Even though East still won the set, the Class 4A No. 7 Knights were able to take the remaining three sets to win the regional championship and hand the 4A No. 10 Olympians a 22-25, 25-17, 25-21, 27-25 season-ending loss.
“We always struggle in the second set. We weren’t firing on all cylinders to begin with,” East coach Ellyn McIntosh said. “I’m proud of the girls and how they fought back in that last set. You couldn’t ask for a better match than that.”
The Olympians (28-5) will lose four seniors in Cadence Gilley, Reece Whitehead, Katy Jordan and Kaitlyn Carothers.
“They paved the path for us that not a lot of kids can. They came in, they played big minutes for us. Each one of them is a great kid individually on and off the court,” McIntosh said. “Not all of them got the same amount of playing time, but Kaitlyn Carothers is a heck of a kid. Her attitude and everything off the bench was awesome. The other three stepped up big for us when we needed them to.”
Gilley will continue her volleyball career at Indiana State next year.
“It’s been great (playing for East),” Gilley said. “It’s not the ending we wanted, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I’ve been blessed to be a part of this program and to play with these girls. I wouldn’t want to play with any other team.”
East got off to a very hot start in the first set and rolled to an early 11-2 lead. Castle (31-2) almost had a chance to steal the set when it cut it to 24-22, but it didn’t matter as the Olympians secured the next point to take the set.
The Knights built off their late first set momentum to jump out to a 10-4 lead in the second, but East came back to cut it to 11-10. Castle then put the set away by scoring six of the next seven points and went on to even the match at a set apiece.
In the fourth set, it was a seesaw battle toward the end, but the Knights eventually prevailed to claim the regional crown.
In the regional semifinal match Saturday afternoon, the Olympians had ball control and turned on the offensive attack to win 25-21, 25-20, 25-17 over Center Grove.
East won a regular season matchup, but the Trojans never had much of a chance to turn the tide in their favor.
“Reece (Whitehead) started off kind of rough for us, but then she came through in the second and third sets. Gabby (Dean) was pretty solid throughout,” McIntosh said. “Both of our middles were pretty solid. We ran the offense that we wanted to run, and things worked out in our favor.”
For the two matches combined, Whitehead finished with 25 kills, 20 digs and three aces. Saige Stahl recorded 22 kills and 10 digs, Dean had 25 kills, four aces, three solo and two assist blocks; and Libby Dippold added 17 kills and three block assists.
Also for East, Jordan tallied 74 assists, 29 digs and four kills; Caroline Frost added three kills and three assist blocks, Kenzie Foster notched 12 digs and Gilley added 45 digs and three aces.
Gilley went over the 1,000 career digs mark Saturday.
“That was a goal of mine my freshman year. I really didn’t think I would hit it,” Gilley said. “It wasn’t on my mind at all this season. I really just wanted to focus on playing really hard for my team, but it is exciting to get those accomplishments, but I couldn’t do it without my team.”
“I’m super-proud of Cadence. She worked very hard for that being a libero for two and a half to three years, and before that, being a setter,” McIntosh said. “Having a year where she wasn’t a libero and then still achieving that accomplishment in basically three years is incredible.”