It took a little more than an hour for No. 1 Carmel to beat McCutcheon in Resler Gymnasium Tuesday night for a Class 4A regional title, but Mavericks coach Sara Sutter said she hopes the lesson will carry on through next year for her players.
The Greyhounds (35-1), who reached the state finals last year, drove away with a 25-8, 25-19, 25-11 victory and will take on Fort Wayne Carroll (28-1) in the North Semistate on Saturday.
McCutcheon, which upset county rival Harrison in the Logansport Sectional final on Saturday, ended its season at 14-19.
“I know the score shows that we lost, but we had so many long rallies, and long rallies that we won,” Sutter said. “This was our first time seeing Carmel. It showed our girls that we can play with the big dogs and persevere. We lose three seniors, but a lot of our main players are coming back and they will remember this game for a long time.”
McCutcheon struggled with stopping one of the state’s top players in outside hitter Carly Skjodt, who boomed five of her team-high 24 kills early in the first game, giving Carmel a quick 12-4 lead. Skjodt’s play ignited an 8-0 Greyhound run, and Carmel then closed out the set on another 5-0 run.
“(Skjodt) is just a great player and she had some great swings for us tonight, but more importantly, we were able to move the ball around a little tonight,” Carmel coach Rich Coleman said. “That was good for us. Carly can basically hit everything for us, and she has the ability to adjust on the fly.”
The Mavericks, though, came out fighting in the second game. Back-to-back kills by Katee Kurtz gave McCutcheon an early 9-8 lead. But the Greyhounds started getting the ball to Skjodt again, and Carmel went on a 9-1 run to gain control.
McCutcheon helped fuel the Greyhounds’ rally with four serving errors.
“Our serving game wasn’t as good as it was against Harrison,” Sutter said. “It put us in a position where we were giving Carmel free ball after free ball after free ball. We only lost the second game by six points, and four of those points were on our serving errors. That’s one thing we talked about not doing, but we kept doing it.”
Coleman said he was impressed with McCutcheon’s fight, especially at times when his Greyhounds made runs hoping to put the second game away. After trailing 23-14, McCutcheon won five of the next seven points.
“We knew about them from sectionals (against Harrison) and knew they weren’t going to roll over and die,” Coleman said. “They did a nice job of coming back and fighting, and they challenged us. That was good, because it made us raise our level through the course of the match.”
Carmel scored the first nine points of the third and led 14-1 before McCutcheon’s defense began to block and dig most of Skjodt’s hard-hit balls.
“We started to figure out her shots and started taking those away,” said Sydney Tracer, who had three kills in the third set for McCutcheon. “They’re really good. That’s why they’re the No. 1 team in the state. This is not the way I wanted my season to end. I love my team, and I wasn’t ready to give it up.”