CARROLL — Bloom-Carroll beat its biggest opponent yet in its quest for statewide recognition.
The Bulldogs beat defending Division II state champion Bishop Hartley 25-21, 16-25, 29-27, 22-25, 15-10 on Wednesday with the intensity and atmosphere of a postseason match.
“We are making our own path,” Bulldogs coach April Redding said. “We are making sure there’s no doubts because we are winning, and we’re achieving our goals. I think with every win, our doubters are just going to become believers.”
Bloom-Carroll (15-3) entered ranked No. 4 in Division III in the state volleyball poll, and the Hawks (12-5) were ranked No. 6 in Division II. The Bulldogs went set-for-set with the Hawks until outlasting them in the fifth.
Cassie Hughes had 27 kills, seven blocks and six aces to pace the Bulldogs. Trailing 24-23 in the third set, Hughes kept Bloom-Carroll alive with a kill, then scored four more points, each time with the set tied. She then served the game-winning point of the set, which her sister, Taylor, eventually won with a tip at the net.
“She’s just our workhorse,” Redding said of Cassie Hughes. “I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. When the (match) is on the line, she does what it takes. She’s always the one with the ball, and she doesn’t fail. Her performance in a tight match shows true senior leadership, a true workhorse, and that’s what she is.”
After dropping a tight fourth set, the Bulldogs jumped to a 9-3 lead in the fifth and held on. The fans and players erupted as a Hartley player’s hit went out of bounds to clinch the match for Bloom-Carroll.
The Bulldogs used tips to disrupt the Hawks. Bloom-Carroll players constantly caught Hartley off guard with short tips at the net. Two of the Bulldogs’ three set wins ended with tips, as Bloom-Carroll took advantage of the Hawks’ defense.
“We saw that in their defense as the game progressed,” said Taylor Hughes, who had 15 kills. “We would hit a few deep, and they would scoot back. So we’d tip a few to bring them up so we could hit again.”
After playing five matches in two days at the Asics Challenge in Chicago during the weekend, the Bulldogs returned to Ohio with experience of playing the top volleyball teams in the nation. Despite going 2-3 in Chicago, Redding said she was pleased with how Bloom-Carroll played. That experience came up big against Hartley, Redding said.
“The Asics Challenge was eye-opening,” Redding said. “We saw volleyball up there that we had never seen in Ohio. … We played the best volleyball we had ever played. It just proved that we can hang with anybody.”
The Bulldogs already had nonleague wins against Bishop Ready and Granville, but beating Hartley was another strong statement about the state of the program, Taylor Hughes said.
“We’re definitely here to go to states,” said Taylor, a sophomore. “We want it bad, and we’re going to do everything we can.”