Central Catholic prides itself on keeping the ball in play, and the floor burns and bruises on their legs are certainly proof that they’ve done an adequate job this season.
On Tuesday night, it was one the back-row players didn’t chase that sent them to the semistate for the first time since 2010.
Leading 24-23 in Game 4, Frontier’s serve sailed towards the baseline. The Knight defenders backed out of the way and watched the ball go deep of the line, and celebration ensued following a 25-18, 21-25, 25-13, 25-23 Class A regional championship victory.
“I would take that championship any way,” senior libero Maddie Matson said. “I don’t care. It could be the ugliest point, the ugliest play. Winning that championship was the best feeling in the world.”
The sixth-ranked Knights advance to Saturday’s Caston Semistate to play Washington Township (27-8), which upset No. 7 Pioneer in five games Tuesday night.
Win or lose, Tuesday was going to be the last volleyball match Central Catholic’s seven-player senior class played in McHale Gymnasium.
Against a gritty Frontier team that, despite a roster overhaul, found its way back to the regional, the Knights’ seniors left victorious.
Senior Emily Denhart’s five kills sparked a dominant Game 3 win and junior Emily Burks smashed six kills in the deciding fourth game.
In front of a raucous crowd, the Knights got big nights from seemingly everyone who saw the floor.
Burks hit .400 with a match-high 16 kills, Denhart finished with 10 kills and Cameron Onken caught fire over the final two sets to finish with 11 kills as setter Sarah Roswarski (44 assists) took full advantage of the weapons at her disposal.
“This is a well-balanced team. We don’t rely on just one kid,” CC coach Brad McCarter said. “We bounce around to six or seven different kids, and I thought Emily Burks had a great night, coming away with some great power shots and mixing it up with some nice tips.”
For the Falcons (21-11), their attempt to win a third straight regional title fell short.
Though Brynleigh Jensen, who was an integral part of a pair of final four runs the past two seasons, played her final match Tuesday night, she knows the experience a young team gained against the Knights will be instrumental in coming seasons.
The Falcons earned a Game 2 win behind strong play from sophomore Savanna Harrison, who finished with three aces, nine kills and three blocks. Sophomore Emma DeWitt had 12 digs and 11 kills, and junior Shelbi Perry finished with 10 kills. Sophomore setter Kylee Putt provided 30 assists and Abbie Mikesell rounded out a sophomore-heavy stat night with 10 digs.
“It proved to us that even though we are a young team, we have the ability to go far,” said Jensen, who pulled up a match-high 31 digs. “Winning (Game 2) was necessary. We needed the belief that we could do it, and that helped to encourage us to keep going.”
CC’s Matson, as she’s done all season, provided stellar defense with 25 digs to highlight a back row that included Lindsey Powers (16 digs) and Fickle (10). Burks also had 18 digs and Roswarski had 15.
“We always talk about being the team that makes the other team frustrated because we keep all the balls up,” Fickle said.