Life had been almost a little too easy of late for the Center Grove volleyball team, which had won each of its past eight matches in straight sets.
When a challenge presented itself in the form of Franklin Central, though, the Trojans were up for it.
Star turns from Ellen LeMasters and Macy Carrabine helped Center Grove fend off the Flashes, 25-20, 23-25, 25-20, 25-19, in an intense first-round match at the Class 4A Greenwood Sectional.
“I’m happy to see my girls fight back,” Center Grove coach Maggie Harbison said, “because that’s a tough team, especially the first game of the tournament.”
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The Trojans (24-9) will play in an 11 a.m. semifinal Saturday against Martinsville, which swept the host Woodmen in Thursday’s opener, 26-24, 25-15, 25-17. Franklin and Whiteland will meet in the other semi.
Ellen LeMasters and Calista Stafford delivered most of the key points in a close opening set for the Trojans, who took the lead at 8-7 and held it throughout despite the Flashes (27-5) getting within a point three different times, the last at 20-19.
Trailing for much of the second set after five straight kills by Maddie Munger helped propel the Flashes to a 15-12 lead, Center Grove came back to tie it at 22-22 on a LeMasters kill before Franklin Central regrouped to even the match.
A commanding performance from senior Carrabine powered the Trojans to a victory in the third set, and in the fourth it was LeMasters’ turn again, with the junior delivering nine kills in the set, including five of six points during a critical stretch, to help Center Grove overcome an early five-point deficit.
Harbison credited freshman setter Madison Hammill with knowing who had the hot hand and when.
“She’s setting really well,” Harbison said, “and she and I communicate a lot on who to go to at what time.”
The opening set between Greenwood and Martinsville featured 11 ties and seven lead changes — the last of which came after the Artesians staved off a set point at 24-23.
Martinsville (18-16) took that momentum into the second game, building an early 8-2 lead and holding it throughout. Greenwood got as close as two points on a couple of occasions, but each time the Artesians were able to stretch it out, repeatedly going to Madison Martin on key points.
Though Greenwood was finished off in the third set to wrap up an 8-23 season, coach Amanda Ratliff was pleased with how her team performed in the early going.
“We’ve been working on a couple of things,” she said, “anticipating how they play since we played them last week. And it seemed to be working, but then we just got away from it.”
Senior Camryn LaMonaca paced the Woodmen in defeat with nine kills and 14 digs.
For Center Grove, meanwhile, life goes on — and perhaps getting a little bit of a push was exactly what the Trojans needed.
“I think that win totally gave us so much momentum,” LeMasters said, “and we’re ready for Saturday.”