Members of the Center Grove High School volleyball program have had 362 days to channel the disappointment of last season’s final match into something positive.
Being swept in three sets by a Roncalli team they soundly defeated nine days earlier showed up in every one of the Trojans’ preseason conditioning sessions and after-school practices.
With sectionals starting today, next year finally is here.
“I know everyone from last season is still bitter about it,” senior setter Taylor Hammill said. “We could have done a lot better, but we may have panicked a little bit having already beaten them twice during the regular season.
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“Throughout this season, I feel we’ve worked on different pieces, and right now it’s all fitting together.”
By virtue of its No. 6 ranking in Class 4A, tournament-host Center Grove is the sectional favorite. Play gets underway tonight with a pair of first-round matches.
In the opener, Greenwood plays Whiteland for the second time this season. The Woodmen earned a 25-7, 25-20, 25-16 triumph against the Warriors on Aug. 28.
In the nightcap, Franklin Community clashes with Franklin Central. The teams didn’t play during the regular season, but the Grizzly Cubs did down the Flashes, 25-15, 25-19, 25-19, in last year’s sectional semifinal.
As for the Trojans, they bring an eight-game win streak into Thursday’s semifinal match against Martinsville. Center Grove defeated the Artesians, 25-10, 25-18, 25-9 in their lone meeting this season.
Every victory in Center Grove’s win streak has been a 3-0 shutout, starting with a 25-23, 25-18, 25-13 defeat at then-Class 4A No. 2 Brownsburg on Sept. 28.
“Before the match we had a gut-check conversation about what we wanted out of this season,” said Trojans coach Dana Matis, whose team lost a match at Avon two days before. “For us to take care of business the way we did, it was our best match of the season.”
Four of the six teams feeding into the Center Grove Sectional finished the regular season with winning records. Leading the way are the Trojans and Franklin Community with identical 28-5 marks, followed by Greenwood (17-12) and Franklin Central (15-14).
Leading the Woodmen into their match against Whiteland is senior middle blocker Olivia Stilley with team-highs in kills (247), blocks (37) and service aces (51).
Mackenzie Blazek’s 142 kills and 62 blocks have been a highlight for Whiteland this season.
Roncalli had a two-year run as part of the sectional that includes Center Grove, Franklin, Greenwood and Whiteland. But the Rebels now compete in the Brebeuf Sectional.
It is possible, however, for another Center Grove-Roncalli match. This time it would be the 11 a.m. semifinal of the Seymour Semi-state on Oct. 31.
The Trojans plan on making that date, regardless who the opponent is.
“Our players were very disappointed with the way their season ended last year,” Matis said. “We were 29-4 and done the first weekend.
“You have to show up every match.”
At Center Grove
Greenwood vs. Whiteland, 5:30 p.m.
Franklin Community vs. Franklin Central, 7 p.m.
At Indianapolis Lutheran
Lutheran vs. Morristown, 6 p.m.
Edinburgh vs. Central Christian Academy, 7:30 p.m.