There can only be one.
Center Grove, Franklin and Franklin Central all won their respective conference volleyball championships this season. In a just world, perhaps each would head into sectional play as a favorite.
Instead, at least one of them won’t even reach Saturday’s semifinal round.
The three league champions were lumped together in the Greenwood Sectional, which begins tonight with a pair of first-round matches. The Trojans and Flashes will square off in the second of those.
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Center Grove has to be considered a slight favorite by virtue of its two sweeps of Franklin, one in a regular-season road match and the other in the final of the Johnson County tournament. The Grizzly Cubs have beaten each of the other teams in the draw.
The Trojans are coming in hot — they’ve won 10 straight matches, the last eight of those in straight sets. But they’re also dealing with some adversity after losing starting middle blocker Emma Jones to a knee injury less than two weeks ago.
Could that open the door for someone else to steal the crown? Could the third time be the charm for the Grizzly Cubs? Could a Cinderella crash the ball and surprise everyone?
By Saturday night, we’ll have an answer. Here’s a quick look at the teams chasing the title:
Center Grove Trojans
Coach: Maggie Harbison
Record: 23-9, MIC and Johnson County champion
Key players: Macy Carrabine, Sr. OH; Taylor Dempewolf, Jr. MB; Madison Hammill, Fr. S; Ellen LeMasters, Jr. OH; Devyn Merriman, Jr. L
Against the field: Beat Franklin, 3-0 and 3-0; beat Martinsville, 3-0
Notable: The Trojans, winners of 27 sectional championships, are 3-0 since losing Jones, having posted convincing victories over New Castle, Roncalli and Brownsburg.
Franklin Grizzly Cubs
Coach: Roxanne Chapman
Record: 23-7, Mid-State Conference champion
Key players: Rachel Kinney, Jr. OH; Isabell Mahin, So. OH; Addie Payne, Sr. RH; Brooklyn Peddicord, So. L; Brooke Phillips, So. S
Against the field: Lost to Center Grove, 3-0 and 3-0; beat Franklin Central, 2-0; beat Greenwood, 3-0 and 3-0; beat Martinsville, 3-0; beat Whiteland, 3-0
Notable: Six of Franklin’s losses have come against state-ranked teams — Class 4A No. 2 Avon (twice), No. 4 Cathedral and No. 6 Center Grove (twice) and Class 3A No. 2 Providence. The other came against Christian Academy, the No. 14 team in Kentucky.
Franklin Central Flashes
Coach: Sandra Moore
Record: 27-4, Conference Indiana champion
Key players: Kelsey Ferrell, Sr. OH; Elleanne Moore, Jr. DS; Madison Munger, Sr. OH; Corri Rusk, Sr. MB; Haley Sobieralski, Sr. S
Against the field: Beat Whiteland, 3-0; lost to Franklin, 2-0
Notable: Franklin Central is looking for its first sectional title since 1999, when it won its third in a row.
Coach: Amanda Ratliff
Key players: Lauren Battinau, So. S; Camryn LaMonaca, Sr. OH; Lawson Roberts, So. DS; Alyssa Stilley, So. MB; Emily Struewing, Sr. OH
Against the field: Lost to Franklin, 3-0 and 3-0; lost to Martinsville, 3-0; beat Whiteland, 3-0 and 3-0
Notable: The host Woodmen are the only team in the draw that has never won a sectional championship in volleyball.
Coach: Danielle English
Key players: Andrea Carter, Sr. MB; Paige Dorsett, Fr. S; Madison Martin, Jr. OH; Jessica Nix, Jr. OH; Ashlyn VanLandingham, Jr. L
Against the field: Lost to Center Grove, 3-0; lost to Franklin, 3-0; beat Greenwood, 3-0; beat Whiteland, 3-0
Notable: The Artesians last won a sectional in 2012 but have a distinguished volleyball history that includes state championships in 1997 (Indiana’s last single-class tournament) and 2006.
Coach: Kristin Estridge
Key players: Tabby Holzhausen, So. S; Abby Quarles, Jr. OH; Elaina Robards, Sr. DS; Sarah Staples, So. MB; Jordan Wise, Junior OH
Against the field: Lost to Franklin Central, 3-0; lost to Franklin, 3-0; lost to Greenwood, 3-0 and 3-0; lost to Martinsville, 3-0
Notable: The Warriors have not won a sectional title since 1994, when Indiana still had a single-class tournament.
Class 4A Greenwood Sectional
Greenwood vs. Martinsville, 5:30 p.m.
Center Grove vs. Franklin Central, 7 p.m.
Thursday’s winners, 11 a.m.
Franklin vs. Whiteland, 12:30 p.m.
Championship, 7 p.m.