Whiteland’s volleyball team hadn’t experienced much success this fall, coming into Thursday’s Class 4A Martinsville Sectional having won just three matches — and 18 sets — on the year.
The beauty of tournament play, though, is that everyone gets a fresh start. The Warriors took full advantage of theirs, grabbing the momentum early and surviving a Greenwood comeback bid for a 25-15, 25-23, 19-25, 23-25, 16-14 victory against their county rival.
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The Warriors (4-25) will face Franklin, which swept the host Artesians 25-19, 25-19, 25-15, in the first semifinal match Saturday. Center Grove and Franklin Central will meet in the other semi.
The decisive fifth set saw the Woodmen (9-22) take a 13-10 lead on a Megan Johns kill, and an Alyssa Stilley block gave them a match point at 14-13. But three consecutive errors, the last one receiving a Rhyan Walden serve, allowed the Warriors to pull off the upset.
“We just talked about earning respect,” Whiteland coach Carolyn Ray said. “Let’s earn some respect. I mean, this is what I’ve seen all season in practice … so I’m really proud of them.”
Whiteland used an early first-set flurry to build a 13-6 advantage, and it was able to maintain the upper hand from there. The Warriors then closed out a tight second set that had been tied at 23-all.
Greenwood refused to fall without a fight, pulling away late in a close third set. Back-to-back aces by Gabi Oakes put the Woodmen up 23-18, and another by Maddy Limbach finished the game off. Then, Greenwood was able to even up the match by claiming the fourth on a block by Stilley and Lauren Battinau.
The Woodmen were then on the brink of victory in the fifth before Whiteland was able to steal it and move on.
“They played their hearts out tonight,” Ray said, “and we’re ready to go at it again on Saturday.”
In the opener, the Grizzly Cubs (26-6) were able to move on without much of a challenge.
The first set was as close as 19-18 late, but Isabell Mahin picked up a tip kill and then served out the final two points. Franklin pulled away in similar fashion after the second set was tied at 18-18, closing the door on an Alyvia Sundheimer kill.
Martinsville (11-17) briefly led 5-4 in the third before the Grizzly Cubs took command and closed out the match.
“I thought we came out flat,” Franklin coach Roxanne Chapman said, “but good enough to push through, which is fine.”
Mahin led the Grizzly Cubs with 10 kills, while Sundheimer and Cami Kelsay added nine and eight, respectively. Brooke Phillips had 34 assists, six kills and nine digs.