For one fleeting moment, Franklin had the opening it needed. The Grizzly Cubs had fought back from a six-point deficit to lead Center Grove late in the first set with a chance to score a match-altering win.
But the moment didn’t last. A Trojan timeout cooled Franklin’s momentum, Center Grove pulled out the set win and then rolled the Cubs in the final two sets to claim victory, 27-25, 25-12, 25-19 in the Class 4A volleyball sectional championship at Martinsville on Saturday.
Center Grove (30-5) will now face unranked Castle in the regional semifinals at Seymour on Saturday. Second-ranked Providence and Bloomington South will square off in the other semifinal, with the championship later that night.
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The title was the third straight for eighth-ranked Center Grove and the program’s 29th overall. But it may not have happened if not for that late charge in the opening set.
“It could have been a different match. It could have gone either way,” Franklin coach Roxanne Chapman said. “But you could tell from that second game that they were deflated. I was proud of them for coming back in that third game and sticking it out.”
The first set was a battle for the ages, a donnybrook of an affair that saw momentum swing wildly back and forth as the two teams took turns hammering away at the other.
Center Grove had the upper hand early, turning a 4-3 deficit into a 13-7 lead thanks to its cadre of front-row hitters. But Franklin adjusted to the pace and began chipping away, eventually tying the set at 21-21 and then going ahead on an Alyvia Sundheimer kill.
Down 23-21 and knowing that her team couldn’t afford to give away the first set, Center Grove coach Maggie Harbison called timeout to stop the momentum. She had called time just two serves earlier, but the second pause had the needed effect.
“I told the girls to make plays,” Harbison said. “That’s about it; that’s all I had for them.”
Franklin (27-7) gave the Trojans the opening that they needed when Brooklyn Peddycord missed the serve coming out of the timeout to give Center Grove life. The Trojans got a kill from Anna Line to tie the set then eventually pulled out the 27-25 win.
The opening set defined the match, and everybody on the floor knew it.
“The first set is huge. That’s the whole momentum of the match,” Harbison said. “I’m glad that we finished that. We’re fighters, but we like to make it exciting.”
“We brought ourselves together and never gave up,” Center Grove senior Ellen LeMasters said. “We’re pretty good finishers and we knew that we had to come back and make the plays. I just felt like we executed at the end.”
The rest of the match was anticlimatic. Deflated from the first set loss, Franklin didn’t put up much of a fight in the second set as Center Grove rolled out to leads of 11-4 and 17-5.
The third set was more competitive, with Franklin leading 10-8 early. It was still tied 15-15 before the Trojans went on a run to give themselves some breathing room.
LeMasters had 16 kills for Center Grove and Emma Jones added eight. Cami Kelsay led Franklin with nine kills.