The Bloom-Carroll volleyball team expected just as tough a match from Marion Pleasant as it received in a five-set district final thriller in 2011.
The Bulldogs got just that, but they still made winning look easy.
Bloom-Carroll swept the Spartans 25-13, 25-22, 25-22 on Saturday at Pickerington North to earn its second consecutive Division III district championship. The Bulldogs return to a regional semifinal Thursday at Logan High School.
“It feels good,” Bulldogs’ coach April Redding said. “When the target’s on you, and you’re expected to win, I think it’s harder. Teams bring their best game. I’m really proud of them. They really stepped up, and to win it in three is fantastic.”
Bloom-Carroll (22-3), the No. 1 seed in the district, defeated eighth-seeded Pleasant for the second consecutive season at this stage. In 2011, the Bulldogs lost the first two sets as the No. 2 seed before rallying to beat the top-seeded Spartans. There would be no such drama this time.
“They definitely had a chip on their shoulder from last year when they were the higher seed and we came back and won the last three,” Cassie Hughes said. “We just came out strong, and then we lost it a little bit, but we got it back.”
Taylor Hughes led a dominant first set for Bloom-Carroll. She served four aces during a seven-point stretch that gave the Bulldogs a 14-4 lead, and she added a couple kills during the first set. Bloom-Carroll played solid all around and had little trouble beating Pleasant.
The second and third sets were more challenging. The Bulldogs were not as crisp, and they trailed or were tied for much of the sets before pulling away each time at the end. Bloom-Carroll won the final three points to take the second, and a Cassie Hughes kill ended the third to send the Bulldogs to regionals.
“We want this,” Cassie Hughes said. “We want this more than anything.”
Redding said Bloom-Carroll is going through some illnesses and injuries. She said she was proud of her team for not letting Pleasant win one of those final two sets. In years past, the Bulldogs might have been content losing a set or two if they didn’t start well, but not this year.
“They said: ‘It’s close. We’re not doing this again,'” Redding said. “We’re going to fight through, win (set) two, and we’re going to do it again to get (set) three. And they did. It’s a lot of pride on my part to see them grow.”
Bloom-Carroll has continued to grow, Redding said, it is confident heading to regionals. The Bulldogs lost in a regional final in 2011 after going up 2-0.
“We’re better this year, we’re stronger this year,” Redding said. “We’re not going to let the same thing stop us. We’re young. We’re playing teams that have been there year after year. Once you’re there one time, it doesn’t lose the greatness of it, but it showed the girls we can step on the floor just like (our opponent’s) six and do it.”