For The Daily Journal
When Center Grove rallied from a two-set deficit to win the third set Tuesday night, the Trojans had all the momentum.
Columbus East wouldn’t let them keep it.
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The host Olympians pulled out a close fourth set to finish off a 25-21, 25-17, 23-25, 25-23 victory against Class 4A No. 6 Center Grove and capture their first regional title since 2013.
“I don’t think we really showed up until the third game, and I think they beat us at the net,” Center Grove coach Maggie Harbison said. “Their net play just totally dominated ours. They’re a good team, and they have good ball control, good setting and good hitting, so they’re going to be tough to beat.”
East (26-11) moves on to host its own semistate on Saturday. The Trojans finish 26-10.
After dropping the first two sets, Center Grove regrouped. With the third set tied 12-12, the Trojans got a side out, and Gabby Pugliese served five consecutive points to give them an 18-12 lead. The Olympians came back to within 24-23, but Center Grove ended the set on a kill by Ellen LeMasters.
“LeMasters and Carrabine are excellent players, and anytime they get hot, we’re in a world of trouble — and that’s what happened in Game 3,” East coach Stacie Pagnard said. “They got really hot, and it’s hard to defend two solid players like that.”
The Olympians jumped out to an 11-5 lead in the fourth set and led 18-12 before the Trojans came back to tie it at 22-22. It was tied again at 23-23 before East came up with a block by Bailey Western and Kendal Williams and a kill by Western to end it.
“Clearly the girls are upset, but we only have one senior, and we have five freshmen and they all played tonight,” Harbison said. “So that’s a good thing. We’re young, and we’re learning a lot and these experiences are super important for my younger players.”
LeMasters pounded 21 kills and five blocks, M.J. Hammill recorded 51 assists and five blocks, and Devynn Merriman had 31 digs and two aces to lead Center Grove. Carrabine added 20 kills, and Hammill had 16 digs.
“It’s really satisfying, and anytime you’re the new coach at a school, it takes time for them to learn your style and your process,” Harbison said. “So I think it will only get better and better from here.”