The Cathedral volleyball team is looking to make history.
As sectional play kicks off this week, the Irish have a shot at several monumental achievements, including:
A seventh state title.
An undefeated season.
And, perhaps, even a national championship.
No pressure, right?
“We choose not to dwell on that,” said coach Jean Kesterson, whose team is ranked No. 1 in Class 4A and No. 1 in the country . “We haven’t won anything yet. Our goal is to win a state title. We haven’t done that. We need to stay hungry and focused.”
For the Irish (30-0) to accomplish those goals, they’ll have to navigate a loaded 4A bracket. Cathedral will rely on a group of six seniors – all of whom have committed to play volleyball for Division I programs. In all, nine Irish players have committed to Division I schools.
Coaching such a talented, dedicated group has made Kesterson’s job easier, she said.
“This is one of my favorite teams I’ve coached of all time, and I’ve been coaching 40-some years; 26 years at Cathedral,” she said. “They care about each other and have a passion for the sport. They’re not intimated by the legacy; they embrace the challenge and the challenge of being the best.”
The Irish will look to draw on last year’s tournament experience – a loss to Carmel in the state championship match – as they enter this year’s tournament. The Irish received a first-round bye and will face Lawrence Central in Saturday’s semifinal.
“The kids kind of froze a little bit last year,” Kesterson said. “They’re determined and hungry to take it this year.”
4A field loaded with talent
There’s no shortage of talent in Class 4A. Aside from Cathedral, Valparaiso is 32-0 and ranked No. 3 in the state and No. 13 in the country.
“It’s very competitive,” Kesterson said. “Last week, we watched Valpo; they’re still undefeated and beat a good (Fort Wayne) Carroll team. It’s probably one of the most competitive I’ve seen volleyball in Indiana. 4A is a challenge, and that’s the best part. There are so many good teams.”
Other local teams in the top 10 include second-ranked Hamilton Southeastern, fifth-ranked Brownsburg, No. 6 Center Grove and No. 7 Avon.
HSE looking to advance
Hamilton Southeastern isn’t known as a volleyball powerhouse – but that could be changing.
The Royals are in the midst of one of their best seasons. They’re 30-2 and shooting for their first sectional title since 2008 and third overall.
“A lot of offseason preparation and getting in the weight room,” coach Jason Young said of the success. “They’re been very driven and very focused.”
The highly competitive sectional at HSE pits Noblesville versus Westfield and HSE against Fishers. The winners of those matches meet Saturday with the winner playing either Anderson or Carmel in the finals that night.
The Greyhounds (20-11), the defending state champs, are on a roll, having won seven matches in a row. They lost to HSE 3-0 on Aug. 17.
“It’s a very competitive sectional,” Young said. “Carmel plays one of the toughest schedules in the state, and Noblesville, Westfield and Fishers all play in a pretty competitive conference. It’s a tough draw against a crosstown rival (Fishers).”
The Royals are 4-0 against the sectional field.
Terre Haute sectional
It’s guaranteed that one of the best teams in the state won’t be advancing out of sectionals, with Avon and Brownsburg competing in the Terre Haute South sectional.
The Orioles (24-8) open against Mooresville, and the Bulldogs (28-2) take on Terre Haute North on Thursday. If the Bulldogs and Orioles win their openers, they’ll play for the third time this season in the semifinals.
“We’ve fought enough to beat them twice, but both matches were extremely competitive,” said Brownsburg coach Bob Yeager. “We know each other pretty well.”
Center Grove sectional
The sectional at Center Grove will feature two teams ranked in the top 11.
Center Grove (28-5) is riding an eight-match winning streak and received a first-round bye and plays Martinsville in the semifinals. No. 11 Franklin plays Franklin Central on Tuesday, and will face either Greenwood or Whiteland in the semifinals.
The Trojans beat the Grizzly Cubs (28-5) twice this season – 3-0 and 3-1.