For the Daily Journal

Greenwood Christian’s volleyball team aspires to bigger goals than anything that can be achieved in a season opener, but the Cougars took a big psychological step toward those aspirations in their season-opener Monday at Greenwood.

The visiting Cougars and the Woodmen split the first two sets, and after Greenwood built an 18-13 Game 3 lead, Greenwood Christian exploded to score 12 of the next 13 points to secure a 25-19 win. The Cougars then wrapped up the match with a 25-18 Game 4 win to secure victory in the season-opener for both teams.

Cougars senior Katie Cruse and freshman Madison Simmons served during Greenwood Christian’s Game 3 comeback, and Simmons registered three of her match-high nine aces during that stretch. Cougars coach Jeff Fishburn and Greenwood coach Amanda Ratliff agreed that was the decisive moment in Monday’s crosstown showdown.

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“They got us right back into the game,” Fishburn said of Cruse and Simmons. “Our serving wasn’t great overall — we had 14 service errors — but I think we brought more energy.”

Greenwood Christian, which features just one senior (Cruse), aspires to be a Class A state title contender after finishing 24-10 last season.

Junior Sarah Mangan, a middle blocker playing only her second year of organized volleyball, collected six blocks for the Cougars. She barely had to leave her feet on most of them.

“Sarah’s really, really good at the net,” Fishburn said. “We started out a little rough but got into the flow of the game as it went on.”

Grace Peters added 11 kills and 14 digs for the Cougars, while Aubrey Odgers added 12 digs and Sierra Gilson contributed seven kills for Greenwood Christian.

“We try to treat every game with the same mentality, but we had been waiting all year for this game,” Cruse said. “Anytime you play a bigger school and a neighborhood school, you’re going to be super excited.”

Greenwood took the first game 25-19, thanks largely to a 6-0 run that broke a 16-all tie. Freshman Megan Johns served the last five of those points. Greenwood Christian then cruised to a 25-14 Game 2 win to set up the Game 3 drama.

Senior outside hitter Camryn LaMonaca led Greenwood with nine kills, while Brooklyn Pepper collected a match-high 19 digs for the Woodmen.

“This definitely showed us some things we have to work on,” Ratliff said. “Greenwood Christian played with a lot of heart, and that’s something our girls can learn from. We still have the same goals for the (Mid-State) Conference and the county, and we’ll learn and get better.”

The Woodmen return to action Thursday at Beech Grove. Greenwood Christian hosts Tindley, a defending Class A regional champion, today.