Center Grove volleyball coach Dana Daprile can’t help but juggle varied emotions, thinking back to her team’s Aug. 27 match against Cathedral.
The Trojans had taken two of the first three games against the fourth-ranked team in Class 4A and were looking to seal the deal against the Irish with a 14-7 advantage in the fourth.
Starting five underclassmen alongside senior 5-foot-9 outside hitter Ciera Cruse, Daprile had witnessed the true potential of the 2013 squad.
The Trojans weren’t a year or two away. They were now.
Center Grove’s statistical leaders through eight matches (does not include Tuesday’s match at Carmel):
Service aces: 13
Service aces: 11
Cathedral, to its credit, rallied to prevail in five games — a heartbreaking lesson for Center Grove to endure but one certain to be of value as the regular season progresses.
“I know we’re right there. We lost to Cathedral in five, and we should’ve taken it in the fourth,” Daprile said. “The players were really upset after that loss. I’m glad.
“It showed me that they really want this.”
Whatever growth Center Grove displays in the coming weeks will be accomplished marching straight into the teeth of a relentless schedule.
Of the Trojans’ opening nine matches, one-third have come against three of the top four class 4A squads (No. 1 Carmel, second-ranked Avon and Cathedral). Center Grove’s victories thus far are against Martinsville, Pike and Chatard.
It’s not going to get easier, either, as Daprile’s team this evening hosts longtime county rival Franklin. This would be the same defending Johnson County and Mid-State Conference champion Grizzly Cubs that won two of three matches over Center Grove last season. The Trojans wound up beating Franklin, however, in the sectional final.
“Franklin is a huge rival for us. We usually play them three times a year because they’re a county and sectional opponent,” said Ali Line, the Trojans’ 6-2 middle blocker. “The past couple of years they’ve been really tough.”
Other programs looming include southside rivals Perry Meridian and Roncalli; Class 4A No. 10 Lawrence North; one of Class 3A’s better teams in Western Boone; a second opportunity against Cathedral; and the Oct. 12 matchup at sixth-ranked and 2012 Class 4A semistate qualifier Columbus East.
“Honestly, I don’t like to look at our record. Knowing the caliber of teams we play, I would rather be playing them than teams I know we could walk in and beat,” said Daprile, 26, a former player at Center Grove who in 2012 took over when her former coach, Deb McClurg, retired. “We’re getting better and better.
“I just care about how well we’re playing at the end of the season.”
Joining Cruise and Line in the starting lineup are sophomore setter Taylor Hammill, junior middle blocker Regan Wentland, junior right-side hitter/libero Abbie Hardesty and freshman outside hitter Macy Carrabine.
This nucleus has until late-October to iron whatever wrinkles might persist. Then it’s off to the Franklin Sectional, which is nothing more than an extension of an already-difficult schedule. Joining Center Grove and Franklin are Greenwood, Franklin Central, Whiteland and Roncalli.
No, it never ends.
“I want to play the best competition in the state because that’s going to make us a better team,” Daprile said. “Our players feel that way, too.”
Yes, they do.
“Our schedule is really tough for a reason,” said Line, who also plays varsity basketball and is a pitcher for Center Grove’s softball program. “Playing the teams we play shows us where we stand and definitely makes us better.”