Although the Center Grove High School volleyball team might have come up two wins short of its ultimate goal, there will be many memories to treasure once the disappointment subsides.
“It stinks right now but you can’t define a season by one loss or one win,” senior middle blocker Madison Smeathers said. “We have to look back at the season as a whole and look at how much we accomplished that we haven’t accomplished in a long time.”
The Class 4A No. 4 Trojans stretched No. 1 Cathedral to the limit before losing in five sets, 21-25, 25-15, 19-25, 25-15, 15-10, on Saturday night in the Class 4A semistate at Seymour High School.
Despite the fact that the Irish were unbeaten and had six state titles, Center Grove was clearly not intimidated.
“We knew we had nothing to lose, and we were going to come out swinging either way,” said Smeathers, whose team had a two sets to one lead before the Irish finished strong.
Cathedral coach Jean Kesterson expected nothing less.
“We kept fighting the fight,” said Kesterson, whose team improved to 35-0 heading into Saturday’s state final against No. 6 Fort Wayne Carroll in Muncie. “We had to, they’re a great team. They have great athletes. They are well-coached.
“We did some adjustments in our lineup and some adjustments on where we’re going to attack the ball. That seemed to help. Center Grove stopped that, so we switched our offense to another side of the net.”
Trojans coach Dana Matis said that the Irish just had longer spurts.
“It was a few points here or there,” Matis said. “That’s what this game is all about, creating runs for your team. They were able to get more runs than we were at times. That gave them more momentum.
“There were things we struggled to defend. I was proud of our fight.”
It was the final game for five seniors, including Smeathers and setter Taylor Hammill. Smeathers has committed to Ohio State and Hammill to Auburn.
“These seniors, the way they’ve led, is pretty unbelievable,” Matis said. “I’m really proud of them for that.”
The Trojans, who won their first regional title since 2009, finished 32-6. Center Grove swept No. 7 Avon 25-18, 25-23, 25-19 in the semistate semifinals.
Irish junior outside hitter Nia Robinson, a Wake Forest commit, delivered 31 kills against Center Grove.
“She did a nice job swinging at the ball,” Matis said.
Kesterson described her play as incredible.
“She took over the game, I think, from an offensive standpoint,” Kesterson said.
Smeathers led the Trojans with 21 kills and senior outside hitter Malea Howie added 10 kills. Hammill delivered 35 assists.