Center Grove volleyball bests Franklin

Center Grove volleyball coach Dana Matis knows there is a tendency to overlook the contributions of setters.

“It’s a position that doesn’t get enough recognition because they are not the ones getting the big kills,” Matis said.

However, Matis definitely noticed the stellar play of Trojans senior setter Taylor Hammill on Saturday morning.

Hammill, who has committed to Auburn, delivered 32 assists in Class 4A No. 4 Center Grove’s 26-24, 25-20, 25-13 victory against Franklin in the sectional championship at Center Grove.

The Trojans (30-5) will now host No. 10 Columbus East in the regional at 7 p.m. on Tuesday.

“(Hammill) does a good job of keeping our team composed in tight situations, really executing the game plan,” Matis said. “That’s a tribute to her work ethic and her demeanor.”

Hammil was quick to share the credit.

“My passers had great passes for me,” Hammill said. “The hitters always put the ball away. I definitely relied on that.”

The Trojans lost in their first sectional match to Roncalli last year.

“Last year gives us a little fire in our stomachs. No one wants to have that feeling again,” Hammill said.

Senior middle blocker Madison Smeathers said it was nice to make the first step.

‘We’ve still got four more games to go (for a state title),” Smeathers said. “It will be nice to have our home fans for the regional, that will help. We’re running on all four cylinders, and everyone is playing great.”

The 6-foot-4 Smeathers, who has committed to Ohio State, delivered 18 kills against Franklin.

“Eighteen kills in three sets is incredible,” Matis said. “Our floor defense was awesome. They ran down so many plays that gave us an opportunity to get a kill. It was a great team win.”

Matis said she knew it would be tough to beat Franklin for the third time, and the first game was tight throughout.

“We just really needed to settle down,” Matis said. “We had to take a deep breath and play our game. We came out a little tight. Once we were able to settle down we started playing.

“We expected Franklin to come out and play extremely well, and they did. It was good we were able to match that energy.”

Grizzly Cubs coach Travis Gabehart, whose team finished 30-6, said the script was familiar.

“It’s the same thing the previous two matches, we play them super tight in the first game,” Gabehart said. “It could have gone either way, but it seems in all three times it goes their way in the end. Then we have a tough time coming back in sets two and three. We get a little down on ourselves.

“We didn’t keep the right focus and mentality the whole time. We have to be near perfect to face a team like this on their home court. We fought well at times, other times not so much. We weren’t firing on all cylinders. We weren’t utilizing all our players. Their heads weren’t exactly in the game.”

Gabehart said he is excited about the young players coming back.

“We could do some things if we got out of our sectional, but (Center Grove) has been a road block for us,” Gabehart said. “It’s not going to change. We have to figure out a way at some point, whether it’s a physical thing or mental thing, to overcome it. Otherwise, we’re going to have the same result next year.

“But I’m super proud of the girls. It was a successful season. There are lot of good things to build on.”

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Mark Ambrogi is a sports correspondent for the Daily Journal.