Alli Stumler's finals-record 34 kills help bring down top-ranked Lafayette Central Catholic in five sets
MUNCIE, Ind. – Christian Academy of Indiana took a stone, and slung it, and the great crash was the fall of Indiana’s top-ranked volleyball team in Class A.
The No. 2 Warriors, spurred by the disappointment of last year’s state runner-up finish, decked No. 1 Lafayette Central Catholic in five sets to claim the program’s first state championship on Saturday afternoon. CAI (29-8) fought off a match point to deck the Knights 26-28, 25-22, 25-22, 13-25, 16-14 in a thrilling final at Ball State University.
The Knights (39-1) were the giants, undefeated and unchallenged while dropping only nine sets all season. CAI sophomore Alli Stumler was the rock that felled them. She hammered down 34 kills, setting a state finals record, and willed the Warriors to a title.
“We’re incredibly blessed to have a phenomenal player like her,” CAI coach Walter Pauly said. “Alli has been there before. She’s a competitor. She’s got a heart. She will take over matches.”
CAI was seeking retribution after getting swept by Wes-Del in the 2014 final, although the Warriors stumbled toward that goal after allowing a 15-8 lead and a late 24-21 advantage slip away in the first set. Stumler could hear the sling-and-arrow comments from the LCC student section behind the court, questioning CAI’s worthiness.
She had an answer.
“That pulled the grit out in me,” she said with a smile. “I said, ‘No, that’s no right.’ That brought out the fire.”
CAI, with Stumler, Sierra Rayzor (18 kills) and senior setter Clara Koch (47 assists) doing the bulk of the damage, battled back. The Warriors whipped to a 15-7 lead in the second set and withstood another charge by the Knights, and they broke away from a 16-16 deadlock to put away the swing third set.
PREVIOUS ATHLETE OF THE WEEK | CAI volleyball’s Alli Stumler
They were also tiring. Upsets are hard work. LCC spanked the Warriors in the fourth set, going on a 10-3 scoring run midway through, and seemed to have momentum heading into the race to 15 points in the deciding fifth. But Pauly sensed his team’s tough schedule and the pressure on the Knights to finish a perfect season was his advantage.
“We’ve been there before,” Pauly said. “I don’t think Central Catholic had been down games. I don’t want to say we were more battle tested, but if that’s the case, it panned out. We knew, if we could play them tough and stay with them, if we could be in a fifth set, we could win.”
That final duel could have gone either way. Back-to-back kills by LCC’s Kiana Fields and Gretchen Kuckkan gave the Knights a 14-13 lead and a serve for the crown. “It was a little frightening,” Stumler said.
Stumler erased that angst with a kill, and Rayzor gave the Warriors a 15-14 lead with another putdown. When Rayzor’s spike went off a block and crawled down the net on the LCC side, it set off the celebration of the first state title (in any sport) in school history.
“We worked hard,” Pauly said. “Hard work has paid off. We knew we had something special.”
Stumler shrugged off the kills record, set previously at 32 by Loogootee’s Taylor Wittmer in 2006. That mark could fall in the future, but no one can take away that huge trophy going home with the Warriors.
“This is a team sport,” Stumler said. “It’s not about myself. The record is awesome, but I have to give credit to everybody. Last year the season didn’t end like we wanted it to. But we knew we had an opportunity. This is what we wanted.”
Fields had 15 kills and 7 blocks, Allison Tharp had 11 kills, and Belle Kendrick totaled 26 assists and 17 digs for the Knights, who won a state title in 2010 and finished as state runner-up in 2013. Koch added 23 digs and Danielle Summitt totaled 15 digs for the Warriors.
LCC’s Cameron Onken was named the Mental Attitude Award winner.