Now that he's a part of the training staff at Eastern Illinois, Brandon Platt can talk with professional and personal experience about the dangers of repetitive stress injuries.
The pain in Platt's elbow began around age 10. It flared up as he played baseball at Munster High School, and then went away with the chill of fall when he stepped onto the football field as a long snapper.
He was always involved in one activity or another growing up. As a teenager, it never occurred to him that the variety of muscles used participating in multiple sports was the reason his elbow pain disappeared.
When Platt graduated high school in 2005 and earned a spot on the Franklin College baseball team, he stopped playing other sports. It wasn't long before the repetitive motion of throwing the ball from behind the plate to the pitcher's mound or second base flared the pain in his elbow again.
He was playing in a summer league after his freshman year when he was asked to pitch.
"I had caught a nine-inning game before and someone asked me to come in to relief to pitch," Platt said. "Now I can say it, that a doctor has told me that everyone has X number of pitches in their arm. You can push that number backward and forward through strengthening, but eventually you're going to reach that number, whatever it is. That's when the powers that be tell you it's time to stop playing."
That summer was the first time Platt stopped playing. While pitching in relief, he tore the ulna collateral ligament in his elbow and needed Tommy John surgery. He was out of commission for 18 months. It was another year before he could play at 100 percent.
Then his junior year he tore his labrum. His baseball career over, Platt dedicated himself to his major: athletic training.
The era of specializing in a a single sport has shortened the careers of athletes, says a doctor at Loyola University whose research focuses on how concentrating on just one sport impacts young players.
In a paper presented to the American Academy of Pediatrics in October, Loyola medical director of primary care sports medicine Neeru Jayanthi said that lower back injuries are the third most common injury among young athletes, and it comes from overuse and specialization in sports.
Some of what helps athletes improve in college is playing multiple sports through high school, Jayanthi said.
"We did some of our research here at Loyola, and talked to our athletes about how much training they did 10 years prior to college, and found that most of them played two or more sports for most of their career," Jayanthi said. "There is a risk of sports specialization. It's healthy to be diversified, to unload the body of focusing on one group of muscles."
While football, soccer and cheerleading are blamed for concussions, baseball, volleyball and tennis are the culprits of repetitive stress to muscles in the shoulders, elbows and back, according to research.
"You're also seeing it more in soccer players, and a lot more lately of overuse problems in legs in soccer players where they'll get stress fractures because they never stop running," said John Doherty, an athletic trainer and physical therapist at Munster High School who writes a regular column for The Times. "Soccer players finish their high school season and go to indoor soccer then to spring league.
"As bad a rap as football is getting at the high school level, and some deservedly so with too much hitting ... but at least those guys get a break. Their body gets a break in the winter. Football players spend their winter and spring in the weight room and running, not the same motions as during the season.
"The day of the three-sport athlete is done and it's a shame."
Though head injuries have drawn more attention in the last five years as research continues into the long-term impact of concussions, the effects of sports specialization create different risks to athletes, Jayanthi found.
In a paper presented in May to the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine, Jayanthi's research noted that the risk of stress fractures are higher in athletes who specialize in a single sport.
"If you do more than twice as much organized sports than fun play, you are at a higher risk," Jayanthi said.
"Unstructured play" can help combat this, Jayanthi said, because of the use of other muscle groups.
In the case of Platt, his pain at age 10 flared up in his late teens because it didn't have time to rest.
As a rule, Jayanthi recommends that athletes not participate in organized sports for more hours in a week than they are old. For instance, a 13-year-old should spend no more than 13 hours on a single sport, an 8-year-old, no more than eight hours.
"There will always be the examples of a Tiger Woods, who dedicated a lot of time to a sport and became famous," Jayanthi said, "but what you don't see are all of the players who burned out trying to do the same thing."
Sports specialization, however, has been cited to help athletes secure scholarships and professional contracts.
Keeping athletes healthy means working those muscles in other ways off the playing field.
"These are the kinds of things that athletic trainers can look at and assess when they see it in players," said Audric Warren, athletic trainer at IU Northwest and former athletic trainer with the Gary RailCats minor league baseball team. "What an athletic trainer would usually recommend is functional training, or working on multiple planes of motion. ... With the RailCats, I'd usually recommend for them yoga. You're using your postural muscles and it helps with overall general flexibility."
Seven years after his injury, Platt says that he is seeing the results of studies like Jayanthi's put to use.
"At the collegiate level, we're already seeing an influx of the importance of prevention," Platt said. "It limits the incidents of tendonitis and rotator cuff tears."
CROWN POINT | Alyssa Kvarta has a simple explanation for her excitement after every point she scores.
"It's really important to show how much you care about the game by showing your emotions," the Crown Point junior setter said. "If somebody gets a really big kill, there's no way you can't just jump up and down and scream for that person and pick up the whole team."
"When you see her reaction to points earned, it's always a big celebration," Bulldogs volleyball coach Alison Duncan said. "Every point matters. We don't take any one of them lightly. Volleyball is a game of momentum. She is a momentum stopper, in part because of her celebration. Other teams see that excitement, especially after she makes an ace or a block or a kill, and it's huge."
Kvarta had a lot to cheer about this season: Crown Point won its first sectional title in 21 years; Kvarta was named the Duneland Athletic Conference's MVP; she picked her college, set to attend East Tennessee State, and the junior was named the Times volleyball player of the year.
After a sophomore season that garnered attention from Division-I schools from across the country, Kvarta's junior year included a role change. After the graduation of another setter, the Bulldogs opted for a 5-1 offense, one that pulled Kvarta away from the option as a prominent hitter.
That didn't necessarily stop her from racking up the kills. She recorded 199 kills and 26 of her 116 blocks were solo. Her biggest stat -- 922 assists -- came because of her soft, accurate hands.
"She was extremely aggressive when she was in the front row, attacking on the second ball, putting those second balls over," Duncan said. "She had double-digit kills from just setting that second ball over in that front row in multiple matches.
"The interesting thing about Alyssa is that she asks a lot of questions, she asks for critiques about what she's doing and what she's doing wrong. She doesn't have the personality that thinks she knows she's perfect. She wants to get better."
In addition, Kvarta became a multifaceted server. She can send her top spin or overhand float from the right or left side of the back line, taking out opportunities that a defense has to try to slow her down.
All of the numbers are secondary to Kvarta. Ask her what she remembers most about the season, where she played her best game, and the words "I" and "me" are nowhere in her answer.
"Against LaPorte in the sectionals, the whole team played so hard, and we wanted that so bad," Kvarta said. "The love we have for each other, that's how we won sectionals."
After scaling the 21-year-old wall with a sectional trophy -- especially after losses in Kvarta's freshman and sophomore years in five games by two points -- there's a hunger for more. She was one of four Crown Point players named to the all-star team, with seniors Courtney Covaciu, Meagan Fajaman and Abby Kvachkoff on the Class 3A/4A North team as Kvarta was on the North Junior squad.
"I would like to continue our streak on sectionals and eventually make it to regionals my senior year -- that's really weird to say, senior year," Kvarta said. "Now we're just focusing on the team and trying to win conference, and after that we're going to roll into sectionals with that same feeling we had this year."
That she'll be an asset to the Bulldogs for another season gives Duncan a chance to learn how Kvarta molds as a leader.
"Alyssa is not the freshman that came in and never got better. She got better every year, and this is what she's been able to accomplish because of a lot of hard work, a lot of desire and drive and that wantingness to take that next step," Duncan said. "Next year, my hopes for her are to be that senior role model that every other kid in our program can look up to and have her not just physically lead the team but in many capacities mentally and emotionally lead the team."
Carly Cappello, Bishop Noll
Position: Outside hitter.
Stats: 1149-1258 (564 kills), 307-329 serving (41 aces), 50 blocks (17 solos), 355 digs.
Analysis: On the North junior all-star team, Cappello was a huge asset to the state runner-up Warriors this season. She has big-game experience and knows when to let others shine. That Noll has her skill, jumps and leadership for another season should worry opponents.
Noelle Eveland, Valparaiso
Position: Outside hitter.
Stats: 301 kills, 391 digs, 19 aces, 19 blocks.
Analysis: Eveland made quite the impression in her two years at Valparaiso. As a senior, the Michigan Tech commit led the Vikings in kills and digs while being named Academic All-State.
Shannon Farrell, Munster
Position: Outside hitter.
Stats: 450-482 passing, 417-438 serving (64 aces), 671-762 hitting (304 kills), 29 blocks, 474 digs.
Analysis: The senior picked up every set and pass made to her, and did it with aplomb. As well as a tough stop up front, she was easy to put in the back row as her determination and drive made her an asset everywhere on the court.
Tori Gardenhire, Lake Central
Position: Outside hitter.
Stats: 213 kills, 39 aces, 101 blocks.
Analysis: A member of the all-conference team, Gardenhire helped make the Indians the Duneland Athletic Conference champs. She can make herself taller than her frame with a jump-out-of-the-gym athleticism that is tough to stop.
Asya Hobbs, Bishop Noll
Position: Middle hitter.
Stats: 894-1017 hitting (395 kills), 343-405 serving (62 aces), 281 blocks (205 solo), 260 digs.
Analysis: Hobbs led the area and the state in blocks, showing how much a dedicated offseason can pay dividends. She was key to the Warriors in their trip to the Class 2A state finals as she was tough to block around.
Elizabeth Kloos, Munster
Position: Middle hitter.
Stats: 367-392 serving (37 aces), 564-609 hitting (245 kills), 151 digs, 120 blocks.
Analysis: The quintessential middle hitter, Kloos improved her game this season for the Northwest Crossroads Conference title holders. She led a tough line up front for the Mustangs, and couldn't be stopped as a hitter.
Abby Kvachkoff, Crown Point
Position: Middle hitter.
Stats: 219 kills, 123 blocks (48 solos), 52 digs.
Analysis: On the North Class 3A/4A all-star team and the DAC all-conference team, Kvachkoff made the perfect all-around player for the Bulldogs. Her height and tenacity were tough to defend, and she has an eye for finding the ball.
Alyssa Kvarta, Crown Point
Stats: 319-378 serving (59 aces), 199 kills, 922 assists, 116 blocks (26 solo), 282 digs.
Analysis: That Crown Point has another year with the Times Player of the Year should have opponents concerned. She's a total team player, as well as the complete setter package. She doesn't want to stop learning, and made a front-line impact despite not taking as many hits this season as she has in the past.
Madeline Johnson, Washington Township
Position: Outside hitter.
Stats: 372 kills, 71 blocks.
Analysis: Changing positions did nothing to slow Johnson this season as the senior moved to the outside and helped lead the Senators to their second regional title in school history.
Ally Rohn, Calumet Christian
Position: Outside hitter.
Stats: 1,450-1,531 hitting (711 kills), 376-403 serving (77 aces), 88 blocks (40 solo), 250 digs.
Analysis: The junior led her team in nearly every statistical category, and in areas she didn't, she was second. She is a vital part of the program that surprises a few IHSAA teams every year before making a run through national tournaments.
Kellie Wojciechowski, Andrean
Position: Outside hitter.
Stats: 343 kills, 211 digs.
Analysis: The senior was integral to a prolific front line and tough to defend. Her hops and leadership were vital to Andrean's success this season.
Kaylyn Anderson | Whiting
Sr. | MH
Stats: 403-454 hitting (268 kills), 243-273 serving (68 aces), 28 blocks.
Kate Bontrager, Valparaiso
Jr. | OH
Stats: 195 kills, 218 digs, 19 aces, 36 blocks (team captain, All-DAC team, Michigan City All-Tournament Team).
Courtney Covaciu, Crown Point
Sr. | OH
Stats: 235 kills, 56 blocks (28 solo), 45 digs, 56 blocks (28 solo), 203 digs.
Toni Dallecarbonare, Munster
Jr. | OH
Stats: 432-473 passing, 353-381 serving (32 aces), 701-782 hitting (351 kills), 42 blocks, 451 digs.
Danielle Ellis, Lake Central
Jr. | DS/L
Stats: 516 Digs, 30 aces.
Meagan Fajman, Crown Point
Sr. | MH
Stats: 234 kills, 43 assists, 138 blocks (61 solos), 49 digs.
Carissa Jones, Bishop Noll
Sr. | OH
Stats: 593-678 hitting (245 kills), 115 aces (led team), 253 digs, 65 blocks (15 solo).
Nicole Malouhos, Boone Grove
Sr. | MH
Stats: 248 kills, 108 blocks.
Gabby Martin, Kankakee Valley
Sr. | OH
Stats: 385 kills, 307 digs, 63 aces, 40 blocks.
Jordyn Moleski, Chesterton
Jr. | L
Stats: 557 digs, 97.7 serve percentage, 92.8 serve receive percentage.
Lauren Stazinski, Andrean
Sr. | MH
Stats: 239 kills on 600 attempts hitting (.260), 98 block solos, 116 block assists.
Morgan Switalla, Munster
Sr. | S
Stats: 805 assists, 474-501 serves (58 aces), 193-199 attacks (66 kills), 19 blocks, 310 digs.
Duneland Athletic Conference
CHESTERTON: Sammi Ostrom, Jessica Urycki, Emily Marcus. LAKE CENTRAL: Brooke Renner, Megan Malatestinic. LAPORTE: Shaina Perry, Danielle Plank. MERRILLVILLE: Myranda Harris. MICHIGAN CITY: Brooke Westphal. PORTAGE: Mariah Wright. VALPARAISO: Monroe Olsen, Rachel Bontrager.
Great Lakes Athletic Conference
CLARK: Krysta Syler, Tique Woods. GAVIT: Vanessa Skierkiewicz, Amber Earl, Brianna Mangerson. HAMMOND: Precious Perkins. MORTON: Amanda Colvin.
Greater South Shore Conference
BISHOP NOLL: Emily Johnson. CALUMET: Maranda Jackson. HANOVER CENTRAL: Savanna Zakman, Samantha Guglielmo, Kristen Roper. LAKE STATION: Joanna Dwyer. MARQUETTE CATHOLIC: Camille Burnett, Sabrina Brown. NORTH NEWTON: Bethany Bober. RIVER FOREST: Caylyn Bellar. WHEELER: Belle Bravo, Jordynn Parks. WHITING: Bri Blackwell.
Northwest Crossroads Conference
ANDREAN: Marija Nicksic, Marisa Beemsterboer. GRIFFITH: Lisette Roldan. HIGHLAND: Brittany Fowler, Morgan Lenhart. HOBART: Geena Lammertin, Caylie Pruitt. KANKAKEE VALLEY: Lauren Stokes, Danielle Ruesken. LOWELL: Mallory Slavis, Hunter Jusevitch. MUNSTER: Tori Foster.
Porter County Conference
BOONE GROVE: Kennedy Starcevich. HEBRON: Natalie Kaczmarski. KOUTS: Ivette Muzquiz. MORGAN TOWNSHIP: Courtney Maxwell, Alexa Kartje. SOUTH CENTRAL: Kaitlyn Jackson, Briana Satoski. WASHINGTON TOWNSHIP: Emily Holcomb, Caitlyn Lembke. WESTVILLE: Samantha Albers, Ashley McClintock.
CALUMET CHRISTIAN: Kaylie Obinger. E.C. CENTRAL: Bianca Krol. RENSSELAER: Maddie Gehring.
With three region volleyball players and a local coach, the North pushed the large school IHSGCA all-star volleyball match to three games before falling as the South swept the three match series.
The Class 3A/4A match, led by Bishop Noll coach Dave Rodriguez and with Crown Point trio Courtney Covaciu, Meagan Fajman and Abby Kvachkoff, lost in three games, 28-26, 25-22, 25-14.
The Class 1A/2A match, with Bishop Noll's Asya Hobbs and Whiting's Kaylyn Anderson, lost 25-20, 25-21.
"That was some outstanding volleyball," Rodriguez said. "Those girls can really play. They picked up balls that I had not seen. It was like coaching college players.
"I think (the 3A/4A team) looked pretty fluid, and I was going to get that with those kids. I watched the 1A/2A game and they came out and in the first 10 points they weren't sure who was right-back, who was outside hitter, playing middle. They had some versatile interchangeable parts. They had a good plan, but the kids weren't on the same page for the first 10 points. When my team when out there, I said, 'Here is what you're doing, here is who is going where, let's start strong.'"
Rodriguez said that each of the Crown Point players in the Class 3A/4A match played in the second game and picked up two kills each.
In the smaller class match, Hobbs had a kill with two blocks and Kaylyn Anderson made five kills.
The North Juniors, with Bishop Noll's Carly Cappello and Crown Point setter Alyssa Kvarta on the roster, also lost in two games to the South.
MUNCIE | The Bishop Noll girls volleyball team had no intention of taking the pressure of the region with it when the season started.
There were certainly some surprises, and as teams often tell themselves at the start of the season, the Warriors wanted to reach a state final.
But could they, really? No Lake or Porter county team had done so, ever.
Sure, there were region teams that had appeared in the state finals tournament, when the finals tournament was a final four with a semifinal before the title game. But to reach the championship, to play for a blue or red medal, that hadn't been done, ever.
In August, this team wasn't even sure it would be the first.
"Definitely we surprised ourselves," senior Carissa Jones said after Saturday's three-game loss to Providence in the Class 2A championship match. "It started with beating Andrean, because none of us were going in there like we were 'going' to win. We just thought, 'OK, let's play and see what happens,' and then we won. Now we can do more than just beat Andrean."
But lo and behold, in the waning days of the season, the Warriors were still there, hanging on and not letting up.
Like other teams with success, Bishop Noll wasn't afraid to put tough games and tournaments on its schedule. The Warriors played Valparaiso, which won a Class 4A sectional in 2012, and they played in the Penn Tournament to end the season.
Now that they've tasted what a state final is like, the 2014 Warriors can't wait to return.
Not to hold the pressure of the rest of the region on their shoulders, the players had some recommendations for the rest of the area on what their perfect recipe was to reach the state final:
"It takes just playing people in a higher (class)," senior Asya Hobbs said. "We went to Penn and learned that not everyone has the same offense and intensity as a 2A school, and that's what Providence was today."
"It takes a lot of heart. Don't ever underestimate yourselves," junior Carly Cappello said. "A lot of people took us for granted, they overlooked us and never thought we were a threat. Just because we're from the region, they overlooked us. Like our athletic director says, we're 'region tough.'"
"It takes dedication," Jones said. "I've been dedicated to the sport of volleyball since the fifth grade with little CYO, and that's carried over into my love of the game in high school. We've been so dedicated and even determination, to prove people wrong, and we've had that all season, and to have that I think gave us a little edge."
Not that Class 2A and 4A are exactly the same. Not that any of these teams can repeat the feat with an injury bug plaguing a team.
But there's hope. Now that one has perforated the invisible bubble surrounding region volleyball, there's even more hope that the hole is just big enough to drive even more local teams through.
"Honestly, it's tough, because we are predominantly a basketball region," coach Dave Rodriguez said. "It's going to take dedication and hard work, and those sound like benchmark things that you say, but it's true. I've got coaches who came from other programs who said that when they came here, things that we did with (the players) in conditioning and sand training, they couldn't believe we did those things.
"That's what it's going to take. People have to take improvement seriously. There has to be a dedication, and when you have multiple sport athletes, it's tough, but you have to have hard work, dedication and desire."
MUNCIE | Bishop Noll's volleyball team thought it was fast.
Then the Warriors met Providence in the Class 2A state championship game.
"They're just like us, a high-caliber team, and they're very, very fast," coach Dave Rodriguez said. "I thought we were fast and at one point I looked at my assistant and said, 'we need to be faster.'"
Providence won its first state title, beating Bishop Noll in its first appearance in the state championship game 25-18, 25-15, 25-20.
"They move quicker and their sets were a lot quicker and lower to the net," Asya Hobbs said. "I think we could have played better, but it just didn't happen. We've never been here before and had never experienced anything like this before."
While Rodriguez compared Providence to Andrean, which the Warriors beat in the regular season in four games, because of the talent at the front row, the Warriors hadn't seen the defensive speed.
The Pioneers (36-4) had 48 digs as a team, led by 15 from libero Audrey Shannon. Up front, Taylor Wilson's 14 kills and Haley Libs' 11 led the Providence offense.
Junior outside hitter Carly Cappello, who has played in three national championship games in club volleyball, led the Warriors with 14 kills.
"When (Rodriguez) talks to me he says, 'you've been here before, this is your game,'" Cappello said. "We've never been here, like been to state before, but I've been to championship games so he wants me to lead the team."
While Bishop Noll (30-10) played in its first volleyball state championship, and the first title game of any team from Lake or Porter counties, the Pioneers were marking their seventh finals appearance.
Providence finished its season winning 17 consecutive matches and not dropping a game since Sept. 25 against Kentucky's Sacred Heart, a stretch of 47 straight wins.
After Noll fell behind early in games one and two, the Warriors took their first lead of the match at 2-1 in game three, extending to 3-1 before Providence made a comeback. Bishop Noll used a 5-1 run late to pull within 21-19.
In addition to Cappello's 14 kills and 13 digs, senior Hobbs added seven kills and senior Carissa Jones had two kills with five digs.
"This is something that we can defend and we need to go back and work on for next year," Rodriguez said, "because we will be back next year."
MUNCIE | Bishop Noll will graduate four seniors from Saturday's state runner-up team.
Those seniors include starters Asya Hobbs and Carissa Jones, co-captains and leaders of the team that lost to Providence in the Class 2A state championship.
"Besides their numbers, which are astronomical and they both predominantly play all the way around, they're both inspirational leaders," coach Dave Rodriguez said. "They lead in two different ways. Asya is a quiet, follow-my-lead type of player and CJ is a vocal, passionate, she always talks to the team and gives the little things. It's what they do off the court with this team that's going to be missed."
The pair hope that their legacy at Noll includes more than just the red medals they proudly wore around their necks.
"I hope that they remember that anything is possible," Hobbs said. "Everybody doubted us. We pulled out and won sectionals, and after we won regional and got to semistate it was, they're lucky to be here. Anything is possible and I hope that if we leave a legacy, that's it."
The Class of 2014 endured sub-.500 seasons and last year's 19-14 record before becoming a 30-10 team that beat Andrean for the first time in eight years.
"I hope that I gave my team the confidence that they can do this, that it's not out of reach," Jones said. "They just know that it's possible to do it again."
Quick quiet, loud late: Junior Carly Cappello said that nerves got the best of the Bishop Noll team early.
"We were definitely nervous, the whole bus ride here, nobody said anything," said Cappello, whose 14 kills led the team. "We were over-thinking everything."
The Warriors didn't take a lead against Providence until the third game. Late in the final game, Noll took advantage of four unforced errors by the Pioneers and an ace by Katherine Jerge to go on a 5-1 run and pull within 21-19.
"I think it just took us a long time to get going," Cappello said. "The third game was our game. That's how we know we can play."
Lessons learned: Rodriguez said he'll review the tape of the state title game and preparing his team to meet Providence again next season.
The Pioneers lose three seniors to graduation, so a repeat appearance by both teams in 2014 isn't impossible.
"This was an unknown and now we know what to expect," Rodriguez said. "We tried to learn something in every game we played and every game we lost this year. There's a lot that we can learn from this game."
Planning a party: After Noll's previously scheduled open house on Sunday, the volleyball team will be celebrated with a 1 p.m. parade around the school's community.
Led by the fire department, the players will appear in uniform to be feted by their fans.
"The goal is to make as much noise as possible," athletic director Marianne Galfano said.
HAMMOND | Annalisa Hernandez and Elena Sobilo have had their turn quarterbacking the Bishop Noll volleyball team.
Former setters, the pair know the pressure of making the key decisions for the Warriors offense.
Now they're in the position to take all the glory. As right-side hitters, Hernandez and Sobilo are the first line of defense on their team's weak side.
They also rank third and fourth on their team in assists.
Having left behind them the position of decision-making, both say they're happier as hitters.
"I feel like being a setter you control the court, but when you're a hitter you get to feel more aggressive out there," Hernandez said.
"I normally play all the way around, so when I go in the back row I'm a setter and in the front row I'm a setter," the senior Sobilo said. "I really do like right side, because being in the front row you get a hit every once in a while. Setting, you get the thrill of being able to assist someone in doing that."
Sobilo and Hernandez have 32 and six kills respectively, with 29 and 45 assists. The big numbers go to the players in the front row.
Noll (30-9) faces Providence (35-4) in today's Class 2A state championship at noon at Ball State's Worthen Arena.
The Pioneers, who haven't lost a game since Sept. 25 (a streak of 16 matches and 44 games), are appearing in their second straight title game.
The advantage of the Warriors having multiple setters on the floor allows them to always find their offense.
"I think it's a really smart idea because if the pass isn't there, any of the right sides can step up and get that pass," Sobilo said. "It gives us more opportunities to make an offense happen rather than having someone scrambling around the floor."
"It's a huge advantage because it's really easy to get back in system," coach Dave Rodriguez added. "My setter doesn't have to run in the back row and limit herself to taking the first pass. We don't just go to an outlet because the setter plays defense, our right sides can run the offense."
Despite early hurdles to the multiple-setter system, Rodriguez said his team has never had a problem finding its leader.
"When we're facing tough opponents, we need them to play together," the coach said. "We need the individuals who have the capabilities of stepping up to step up, but not try to take it on themselves. We do these things as a team."
HAMMOND | The two setters in Bishop Noll's 6-2 offense could not be more different.
Emily Johnson is a 5-foot-3 junior with two years of varsity volleyball experience. Brittany Anderson is a 6-foot freshman on her first high school team.
The pair have combined for more than 1,200 assists, enough to lead Class 2A statistically.
"I don't understand why everyone is surprised that we're doing as well as we are in Class 2A," Warriors coach Dave Rodriguez said. "We're No. 1 in kills, blocks, assists and aces in 2A."
Noll (30-9) will play Providence (35-4) for the Class 2A state championship at noon Saturday at Ball State University. The Warriors are the first team from Lake or Porter County to reach the title game.
To set that No. 1 mark this season, Noll took its lumps and growing pains while training young setter Anderson. Johnson took over leadership duties.
"It's two different types of players," Rodriguez said. "Emily Johnson is a fiery, tough, quick setter. Brittany is a full, very methodical setter. Both have really good hands and both understand where to put the ball for the hitters."
The 6-2 offense means that there are two setters on the floor at any given time, and the one in the back row typically takes the first set.
"I like the 6-2, because if I don't get the ball, I can trust that (Anderson) will get to it," Johnson said.
Johnson leads the team with 602 assists, including 19 in the semistate championship against Woodlan.
Anderson has 500 assists and is third on the team in blocks with 27, allowing the Warriors to use her as an additional front-row threat.
Not that Noll needs more hitters up front, with Carly Cappello (564 kills), Asya Hobbs (395 kills) and Carissa Jones (245 kills).
"(Height) is a difficult thing when you have a 6-foot setter and a 5-3 setter," Rodriguez said. "The ball is delivered differently based on their different height. They know what it is they have to do and they know these hitters very well. They have to adjust what they do to put the ball based on the hitter."
"I've learned that I can't always match Emily's sets, but mine have to come close," Anderson said. "They've experienced Emily's sets before, and I've had to adjust to them and learn what the hitters wanted and how Emily set the ball, so now they're just big sisters that I have to look up to."
Bishop Noll volleyball coach Dave Rodriguez brought several bags of hidden food to practice at the beginning of the season.
He handed them to five of his players. In one was sugar, he asked her to take a taste.
"They said the sugar was too sweet," Rodriguez said.
In another was flour, which you couldn't pay enough for a taste of that. Another had salt, another baking soda, another brown sugar.
Individually, they were OK, though not what any player wanted to devour.
Then he handed a sixth bag.
"Chocolate chip cookies," Rodriguez said. "All of those ingredients make chocolate chip cookies. Those they want."
Bishop Noll is a cookie team. Not that it's soft on the inside, the Warriors have proven it's hard to find the squishy, breakable parts of this team.
Instead, this is a team that doesn't want to be baking soda and flour, it wants to be the full, tasty, ingredient-filled cookie.
That's how the Warriors are headed to Saturday's Class 2A state championship at Ball State, set to play Providence at noon.
On paper, Noll is not a team that should be in this position. Only about half of its players are on club teams in the offseason. In an era of specialization, the Warriors have too many multisport athletes for any one of them to just pick one.
Freshman Brittany Anderson doesn't play club volleyball, she's a softball player, but still is one of two setters that have helped amass 1,100 assists this season.
Backup middle hitter Amber Williams just started volleyball last year.
"She's 6-feet tall, and you can't teach that," Rodriguez said, "and in the last year she's worked so hard to improve her approach, her swing, and if she played club, wow, she could be a beast. But not all of these kids want to do that, and that's OK.
"It's expensive to play club volleyball. It's difficult because we're not a public school where taxes are paying for an education, so to ask parents to come up with another $1,600 to play volleyball, I can't do that."
Instead the Warriors remember that they are cookies. The seven club players on the 13-member varsity roster are the salt that helps emphasize the taste of the other non-club athletes. When one needs help picking up a dig or grabbing a block or making a set, that's why the others are there.
Success continues to breed success, and there are two seniors — Asya Hobbs and Elena Sobilo — on the Warriors team that are headed onto the basketball court after the volleyball season ends. That should mean that the conference title and conference tourney title from the hoops season last year are only the appetizer for what Noll hopes to have in store this year.
"I want the kids to be well-rounded," Rodriguez said. "I'm a club coach because I love what I do, but I was a three-sport athlete so I understand the desire to continue to play sports for your school."
Now that Rodriguez's team expects cookies after every win, there will be ovens blazing before Saturday's trip to Muncie.
BREMEN | Bishop Noll coach Dave Rodriguez called a timeout in the fourth set with his team down. He told one of his players still wearing a warm up t-shirt to turn out.
Rodriguez asked his team to read the slogan the Warriors have played under all season: "Eyes on the Prize."
Noll turned things around after that, winning the fourth and fifth sets to top Woodlan 25-21, 20-25, 23-25, 25-19, 15-7, win the Bremen semistate and take one step closer to that state championship prize.
It's the first semistate title in the program's history.
"Honestly, at one point in the fourth set I was starting to think about the positive things I was going to tell them about this season," Rodriguez said. "But they gained focus, got it together, played with reckless abandon and got it done."
BNI's seniors made big plays at big moments all day. Asya Hobbs's blocks and kills drew oohs and aahs from even the Woodlan crowd. Carissa Jones (12 kills, four digs) seemed to be in the right place at the right time. Carly Cappello (21 kills, nine digs, three aces) tallied a kill almost every time Woodlan appeared poised to make a run.
"I talked to the team and I said, 'You have to want it, because I don't want to go home. I'm a senior,'"said Hobbs, who added 20 kills, eight block kills and seven digs. "Our coach always said that there's a domino effect to everything, so as captains we take on that leadership to have the first domino fall and then everything falls into place."
Bishop Noll (30-9) jumped out to a quick 12-5 lead in the first set. It never lost that lead, but Woodlan controlled the momentum in the second and third sets.
The combo of Brooke Gerbers and Tori Bontrager was a powerful one for Woodlan (26-8). Gerbers had 36 assists, mostly to Bontrager who finished with 26 kills.
The pivotal fourth set was tied as late as 17-17. BNI finished that set with a 7-2 run.
"I knew if we got to a fifth set, we would win it," Rodriguez said.
The Warriors are now the most accomplished team in school history.
"They're all healthy; they're all ready to go," Rodriguez said. "This ain't over."
HUNTINGTON | The motto on the warm-up T-shirts all year was #FEARLESS.
All season Munster’s volleyball team lived fearlessly, embodying the word.
That fearlessness persisted on Saturday morning in the first semifinal of the Class 4A Huntington North Semistate, but the best player on the floor was on the other team and the Mustangs dropped an intense four-set battle to first-time semistate participant Elkhart Central, 27-25, 25-17, 24-26, 25-23.
“This just proved that we were fearless the whole season,” Munster senior Shannon Farrell said. “Even though sometimes we did get down, we always got back up.”
Purdue recruit Azariah Stahl, who can touch 10 feet, 4 inches (Munster’s best jumpers max at a 9-6 reach), had 37 kills as the Blue Blazers (30-3) won the right to face No. 1 Carmel in the evening championship.
Munster began the season with modest expectations but developed into a highly coachable, tight-knit group that won almost every time it played. Munster (34-4) was in the semistate for the second time in three years.
Unlike the 2011 sweep at the hands of Westfield, Munster won a set and pushed another lost one past the 25-point mark.
“I think we fought back a lot harder this year,” senior middle hitter Elizabeth Kloos said. “I felt like sophomore year, when we came out, we couldn’t find our game, and today we did.”
After dropping the first two games, the Mustangs, who were fresh off an overnight local hotel stay, were back to themselves in full force in the third game, running off six points to take a 6-1 lead and go up 16-6 and 17-7.
Before the third game, Munster coach Tracy Summers switched the offensive formation from a 5-1 to a 6-2 and told the players, including six seniors, they had come too far to give up who they are.
“We just don’t give up,” Summers said. “We’re used to having maybe one bad game here and there, but that doesn’t get us down because we know we can pull together and play our best and win. We don’t lose two and think we have a loss. That never happens."
Kloos, a Quinnipiac recruit, matched Farrell, a Southern Indiana recruit, with 12 kills to lead Munster. Farrell added 20 digs. Senior setter Morgan Switalla had 21 assists and 19 digs.
Senior Amber Caldwell, who led Munster with 21 digs, said, “Play for Colleen” in the same huddle after the second game. The team competed in memory of classmate and friend Colleen Lusk, who died of cystic fibrosis the week of sectionals, which inspired the Mustangs, Kloos said.
“We fought back,” Kloos said. “They had a great hitter. We did our best to stop her, but she’s a great hitter. We played our game, and we gave what we had.”
Most of the fourth game was close. After a 22-22 tie Elkhart Central went up 24-22, then 24-23 on an Elkhart net violation. With the serve in hand, Munster took a return volley and set up a kill, but tori Foster’s attack went out of bounds past the back line and the NCC logo in the Huntington free throw key, and the rally and season were over.
The Mustangs took a game and a half to get consistent handles on attacks of Stahl, who had most of Elkhart Central’s big plays, including the final two kills of a 27-25 opening set. She also had a kill to disrupt an improbable string of Munster volleys in the second game and many more, especially late in each game.
“We weren’t able to capitalize when she was in the back row as much as we would have liked,” Summers said. “Their offense is basically two players. I never thought in volleyball two players could take over a match. We just have a different philosophy.”
FULTON | A change of strategy was all it took.
The Washington Township defense was thrown off on Saturday morning when Lafayette Central Catholic changed its plan of attack and the Knights took advantage with a 3-1 win in the semifinal round of the Class A Caston semistate.
“We practice hard all week. We practiced for them,” Senators head coach Kevin Labaj said. “They just switched some of their game plan up and we weren’t ready for it.”
Washington Twp. won a back-and-forth first set 30-28, but then was beaten 25-17, 25-21, 25-17.
In the second game, LCC jumped out to a 10-3 lead but Washington Twp. cut it to 10-8 with a five-point run served by Caitlyn Lembke. After a timeout, LCC won eight of the next 11 points, forcing Washington Twp. to call a timeout trailing 18-11. The Senators won three straight points out of the break but LCC took seven of the next 10 to earn a 25-17 win and tie the match.
For the most part, Washington Twp.’s big outside hitters were taken out of the match by the LCC attack, some receiving miscues by the Senators.
“I think there were a lot of mental mistakes that we made passing-wise, whether it was nerves or whatever,” Labaj said. “The sets that we did get (on offense), we didn’t use them as well as we could have.”
The third set was a heartbreaker for Washington Twp., which led 10-4 early but allowed LCC to tie the match 11-11 and then take a 13-11 lead during a string of seven straight points for the Knights. The game was tied as late as 20-20, but LCC won five of the next six points for a 25-21 win and 2-1 match lead.
In the fourth and final set, LCC jumped out to a 13-6 lead but Washington Twp. got back into it thanks to a five-point run that included a big ace from Lauren Kleist. LCC answered with a four-point run but the Senators responded with four straight to make it 17-15 before LCC took eight of the last 10 points to win the set 25-17 and the match 3-1.
Washington Twp. led the marathon first set until a 14-14 tie, at which point the Senators did not lead again until 28-27. LCC tied it 28-28, but Washington Twp. won the next two points to win the set 30-28.
“I think that we pushed so hard that first set that we started out slow in the second,” Labaj said. “Maybe (we) thought they were going to lay down and they didn’t, and (we) were surprised.”
BREMEN | Bishop Noll coach Dave Rodriguez called Madison-Grant scrappy.
And that's just the kind of team he doesn't like to play.
The Argylls gave BNI all it could handle in the Class 2A Bremen Semistate opener Saturday, but the Warriors won in straight sets 25-22, 25-21, 25-23.
"We don't like to be dug; we like to put the ball down and turn and celebrate," Rodriguez said. "They picked up a lot of balls and started to figure out some things that we were doing so we had to change."
Overall, Madison-Grant totaled 30, led by Madison Snyder's 15.
The one time when the Argylls had the momentum was in the third set. Rodriguez called a timeout to settle his team.
"When I called the timeout I told them 'Look, we didn't get here by being scared, being hesitant, being reserved,'" Rodriguez said. "If we kept doing that, we'd be out of here. So I told them not to rush and to just play."
Madison-Grant (26-10) held a small lead as late as 23-22, but coach Robert Holloway was called for a substitution mistake and Bishop Noll was awarded a point. The Warriors (29-9) didn't squander the opportunity and did just enough to advance to the championship.
"We're just playing with reckless abandon right now," Rodriguez said. "We've gone further than any Noll team has ever gone and we're just going to have fun with it."
Carly Cappello had 20 kills for the Warriors, while Asya Hobbs added 12 and seven blocks. Emily Johnson had 16 assists and Brittany Anderson had 13.
Early in the volleyball season, Bishop Noll's Carissa Jones was walking back onto the court after a water break.
The senior hitter overheard a freshman complaining about all the running coach Dave Rodriguez made the Warriors do. It didn't sit well with Jones.
"That's just not something you should be saying as a freshman," Jones said.
So the seniors, led by Jones, gathered the underclassmen for a team meeting.
"I told them that this was just the beginning and it's getting you better," she said. "This is where it starts and you have to work for it."
That work has paid off for Jones and Bishop Noll. The Warriors will take on Madison Grant in the first round of the Class 2A Bremen Semistate today. BNI has already made it further than any volleyball squad in school history.
"This is (Jones') senior year. This is what she's always wanted," Rodriguez said. "Nobody's more happy about it than her."
Jones is certainly one of the leaders for Noll. She's twice been elected team captain. Rodriguez says Jones takes the program upon herself, passing on the traditions and expectations of what it means to be a Warrior.
"It's really special to be a two-year captain," Jones said. "I try to push (the underclassmen). We try to talk to them before games and motivate them."
Jones is part of a talented group of hitters for Bishop Noll. She admits that their goal is to be intimidating, knocking down kills as hard as they can.
"We do not like to get dug," Jones said. "We want kills every time."
Jones has 234 of those kills. She's also scored 112 aces, a total good enough for second in the state among those reporting.
She'll need to be at the top of her game to take Noll where it wants to go.
"These girls have a second level when the competition steps up," Rodriguez said. "I believe they're going to step up this weekend."
Jones said she has vivid memories of picking up the newspaper after each postseason loss during her first three years with the Warriors and reading "Noll loses." She wants to see "Noll wins" in the headlines after her final high school contest.
"To lose (today) just wouldn't be satisfying," Jones said. "We've gotten this far. I want to go all the way."
MUNSTER | Antonia DalleCarbonare’s great-grandfather came to America from Italy and eventually enlisted in the Army.
However, his 14-letter surname did not fit on the name tag, so he became Private Carbonare.
Generations later, the family re-adopted the old world original name DalleCarbonare, and now one of great-grandpa’s descendants is making the original name proud on the volleyball court.
Antonia DalleCarbonare and her 10-syllable name are a vital piece of Munster’s long postseason run, which continues Saturday at the Class 4A Huntington North Semistate, where the Mustangs open the semifinals facing first-time qualifier Elkhart Central at 10 a.m.
“They called me ‘D.C.’ in club season,” said DalleCarbonare, whose maternal grandfather hails from France.
“Everyone just calls me Toni. They just don’t feel like pronouncing the whole thing.”
Whatever the nickname or full name, it won’t be the most recognizable Munster moniker at semistate, and that’s what will make DalleCarbonare, a junior outside hitter, an ideal candidate to have a huge day against an unfamiliar foe.
“I’ve just kept telling myself to constantly get better and better and take everyone else’s advice and put it together -- take everything that I’ve learned from them and get better,” DalleCarbonare said. “I feel like I’ve helped the team progress as I’ve gotten better this year.”
The biggest, albeit not longest, names on Munster’s roster are Shannon “The Cannon” Farrell and Elizabeth “Bitsy” Kloos. The outside and middle have excelled for years in prep and club volleyball, and they’ve even paired to make the beach nationals in California.
Whereas beach volleyball really is a two-person sport, prep volleyball requires more than a cannon and bits. That’s why players such as DalleCarbonare, Tori Foster and setter Morgan Switalla are important.
“Toni gets overshadowed sometimes by Shannon because everyone knows Shannon, and she’s a fantastic player,” Munster coach Tracy Summers said. “But those two are really good friends, and I think Toni has learned a lot from Shannon. I think other teams forget that our other outside hitter is extremely effective as well and also a great passer.”
When the rotation takes Farrell to the back row, Farrell does her best Cyrano de Bergerac to let DalleCarbonare know the open spots available for front-row spikes.
DalleCarbonare has a huge jump serve and a knack for making big plays when the ball caroms wrong to disrupt a play.
“D.C.” had 11 kills and 24 digs in Munster’s grueling sectional semifinal win over 2012 semistate participant Lake Central. In the last two matches she has combined for eight kills and 14 digs.
“Offensively she’ll make some plays out of system and get kills somehow,” Summers said. “She’s very aggressive. You’re not going to see her just throw it into the court. There’s a lot of swinging hard and making the daring play to get the kill, which is really, really nice.”
DalleCarbonare, who runs track and used to play softball but has played volleyball since seventh grade, wasn’t on the varsity volleyball team as a freshman and is excited about the itinerary for this weekend, which includes a bus trip, meal and hotel stay tonight.
“I feel very honored to be on this team,” DalleCarbonare said. “I know if I mess up, they’ll always have my back, and there’ll always be that next play to get that point back. There’s pressure, but it’s so distributed through the team because we have such a solid team.”
WASHINGTON TWP. | Playing Pioneer in Tuesday’s regional title game was nothing new for Washington Township senior Caitlyn Lembke.
The four-year starter had played against the Panthers in each of her first three years with the Senators, including a regional championship in 2011.
What changed for the setter was that a loss wouldn’t just signify the end of the season, but the end of the career along with her four other senior teammates.
“That was all that I was thinking about during that last match,” Lembke said. “I just didn’t want this to end. All five of us got together and we said that we needed to fight.”
Washington Twp. needed a little bit of luck and a whole lot of skill to knock off Pioneer for just the second time in five years. With their regional nemesis in the rearview mirror, the Senators (27-8) turn their attention to Lafayette Central Catholic (27-9) in Saturday’s semistate opener at Caston. Wes-Del (29-6) and Fort Wayne Blackhawk (24-8) meet in the other semifinal match.
“We’re going to need to play our game and go in there knowing that we can win,” Lembke said. “We’ve all got a positive mindset going in to this weekend.”
Part of that mindset comes from the experience that the Senators picked up when they lost to Wes-Del in the 2011 semistate semifinals. Lembke and her classmates were sophomores that season and it was the last time that Lembke only rotated in the back. The senior became an all-around player last year when second-year coach Kevin Labaj took over the program.
“The setter is such an important position in our game,” Labaj said. “I tell everyone that she is the drummer in the band. She sets the beat for the rest of the team. She’s always keeping everyone in good spirits and she’s always executing good decision making.”
The Senators jumped out to a one-game lead against eventual state champion Wes-Del two years ago before dropping a heartbreaking 27-25 decision in the second game. The Warriors pulled out a 25-22 win in the third game and then ended Washington Twp.’s first semistate appearance in school history with a 25-14 victory.
Two years later and Lembke believes that her senior teammates learned a lot from that defeat which helped spur the Senators to a regional title on Tuesday night.
“It was such an up-and-down roller coaster,” Lembke said. “We pushed them at every point and it was very exhausting. We showed our determination by the way we came together. We’ll use all of that to get ready for this weekend.”
MUNSTER | In a battle of setters for a regional championship, the one that led the best serve-receive captured the title.
Munster's Morgan Switalla, who had seven kills to go along with 16 assists and eight digs, led the Mustangs to a 25-17, 20-25, 25-17, 25-12 win over Crown Point Tuesday night.
The regional title was the second in three seasons for Munster.
"There were probably some looks across the net, who could pick out who was serving better, it was definitely edge-and-edge the whole time," Switalla said.
Crown Point's Alyssa Kvarta, a Division-I recruit, had six kills with 25 assists and two solo blocks.
"(Kvarta) is a really fantastic setter as well as hitter, so we had to make sure we stopped her," Munster coach Tracy Summers said. "This was the battle of setters tonight and Morgan stepped it up and you noticed she was able to attack the ball really well.
"There were great moments in the transition when people weren't thinking about her dumping the ball. She really took it over and she's a fearless setter."
Summers said her team learned most about its regional opponent in a tournament loss nearly three weeks ago.
That set up a game plan which included tipping as close to the net as possible and finding holes on the outside.
"We were going to attack the perimeter and mix up tips and you'll notice a lot of tips did fall," Summers said. "They were also going to make sure their higher percentage hitters, we were doubling on them."
What the game plan didn't include were 13 unforced errors in the Game 2 loss.
Crown Point easily took advantage of those errors, tying the match early.
"The last time we played them was 2 1/2 weeks ago and now was a totally different team out there," Bulldogs coach Alison Duncan said. "We focused a lot on serving and serve-receive and that gave us problems getting our offense going."
Led by nine kills each from Courtney Covaciu and Caley Rainford, Crown Point lost a two-point advantage in the third game with an 8-0 Munster run.
"That (tournament) experience is something our program hasn't had and sometimes it's what you need to keep going," Duncan said.
Munster has three seniors who played on the 2011 regional title team, including captain Shannon Farrell, who had six kills and a team-high 15 digs.
HAMMOND | Bishop Noll had a unique form of celebration as it hoisted the Class 2A regional championship trophy Tuesday night.
The Warriors sang "happy birthday" to freshman Brittany Anderson after their 25-14, 25-11, 25-15 win over North Judson.
"All I can say is it was a great birthday present (to win a regional championship)," Anderson said. "We definitely had our ups and downs but I think my team put it together and gave me a great birthday present."
Anderson did her part to make sure it was indeed a happy birthday, setting up teammates all night to finish with 22 assists.
It's the Warriors' first regional title since the switch to class volleyball was made in 1997.
"This has been a process for two years and this really feels good," coach Dave Rodriguez said.
Noll (28-9) struggled early. The Blue Jays actually led 11-10 in the first game.
"I thought we came out a little flat tonight," Rodriguez said. "Maybe it was the excitement of winning a sectional for the first time, or if they were pressing or if it was nerves."
Rodriguez called a timeout to settle his team. It worked. North Judson (11-26) never scored more than two consecutive points again.
Asya Hobbs and Carly Cappello rained down kills which the Jays could never quite get a handle on.
When it came time for the final point to clinch the win, Rodriguez said he looked to the crowd.
"We gave this thing, everybody puts their finger up to say 'uno mas,'" Rodriguez said. "We can never get it right on the first time.
"We finally did."
The Warriors move on to the Bremen semistate this weekend.
"These kids are notorious for stepping up to the competition," Rodriguez said. "I have full confidence that they will understand what they have to do Saturday."
CHICAGO HEIGHTS | Marian Catholic just couldn't finish Tuesday in one semifinal of the Class 4A Marian Catholic Regional.
The Spartans led at certain times of both games, but Lincoln-Way North ended the Spartans' season with a 25-23, 25-17 win.
In the second game, No. 13 Marian closed within 18-17, but couldn't stop the No. 6 Phoenix, who ran off seven straight points.
"We tried to put up a desperate fight and I think at that point were playing not to lose instead of playing to win," Amber Clay said. "I think that is what cost us."
Clay, who will attend the U.S. Military Academy, finished her brilliant career with seven kills. Kendy Todd had five kills and four blocks as Marian finished the season 19-17.
"It was great to be a part of this program and see our program get back to a good one," Clay said. "We had a good run."
In the first game, Marian took a 5-1 lead, but the Phoenix came back to tie it. Both teams traded points with Marian taking a 23-22 lead, but the Phoenix's Allyson Cappel reeled off three straight points for the 25-23 win.
Lincoln-Way North (29-6) will face No. 5 Lincoln-Way Central at 6 p.m. Thursday for the championship.
"We knew they would be that good after having played them a few weeks ago," Marian coach Ryan Summers said. "We definitely played well enough to win, but we didn't finish both times."
The Spartans beat Lincoln-Way North a few weeks ago in the Lincoln-Way Central Autumn tournament.
"We knew what they had and we knew it would be a tough match," Todd said. "They did a really good job."
Marian's Dana Zavesky had four kills and Maddie Huekels had 19 assists.
Lincoln-Way North was led by Shannon Murphy with 23 assists an Rachel Burkman's seven kills.
WASHINGTON TWP. | Facing the biggest points of her career, Washington Township star senior Maddy Johnson was stuck on the sidelines, on the wrong side of the rotation.
Enter Lauren Kleist.
The sophomore outside hitter delivered a key kill that gave the Senators a one-point lead before Pioneer's Sarah Dorris hit the ball into the net to clinch the second regional title in school history with a 22-25, 25-18, 25-21, 22-25, 17-15 victory. The Senators advance to Saturday's Class A Caston Semistate.
"The end of the game was very nerve-wracking," Kleist said. "Maddy grabbed my head before she went out and she told me to make her proud."
Johnson was the focal point of the offense for much of the night as the senior led the Senators with 21 kills. The rest of her teammates deferred to Johnson in the fifth game and she delivered with six kills before she was rotated out of the match.
"I was just shaking on the sidelines," Johnson said. "I don't even remember the last point. I heard the crowd, and I knew that we got it."
The two teams were meeting in regional play for the fifth straight year, but none of the previous contests had ever gone more than four games.
"I told them before the fifth game that they needed to leave everything on the floor," Washington Township coach Kevin Labaj said. "All the blood, sweat and tears, that all needed to stay out there. Our experience truly helped us (Tuesday)."
The end of the match wasn't without some controversy. The Senators (27-8) trailed 14-13 and appeared to hit the ball long, but the official pointed his flag toward the ground directly in front of the Pioneer bench, sending Panther coach Rod Nies into a tirade.
"The way the calls went (Tuesday), there was a lot of back-and-forth," Labaj said. "There were some out-of-bounds calls that went both ways and some lift calls that went both ways. I wasn't able to see that play, but I think everything was even."
Kleist finished the match with 19 kills, while Emily Holcomb added 35 digs and two aces. The senior libero made a key save on the final point of the match that set up Pioneer's game-ending error.
"We've won this before (two years ago), but this year, as seniors, this is really something special," Holcomb said. "We're happy with this, but we've still got more to go."
GRIFFITH | Six-time state champion coach Troy Campbell was impressed by Griffith’s attacking skills as his two-loss New Prairie team faced the host Panthers in Tuesday night’s Class 3A regional.
Fortunately for Campbell’s team, the Panthers only had a few opportunities to display their heavy hitting.
The key to good hitting is strong initial passing, and New Prairie’s befuddling serves begat more than 20 aces as the Cougars beat Griffith 25-16, 25-9, 25-12.
“We came in with nothing to lose,” Griffith senior spiker Lisette Roldan said. “We’ve never won a regional, and we came out (Tuesday) to leave it all on the floor.”
Roldan was chief among five seniors (in addition to Megan Garcia, Victoria Mares, Jacy Vukvich and Jenna Derolf) who played their final volleyball matches in Griffith uniforms. However, Roldan recently verbally committed to Division II Concord University in West Virginia to prolong her volleyball-playing days.
“It’s good because now I don’t have to play club (volleyball) and I can enjoy my senior year,” said Roldan, who will receive a partial athletic scholarship to play for the Mountain Lions.
Griffith (14-14) won its third consecutive sectional and sixth overall, but the passing issues ended coach Kristi Hoese’s first season despite her numerous attempts to stop New Prairie’s momentum with timeouts and substitutions.
“They’re a great team, and I can’t say much more about that,” Hoese said. “They served us off the court. If we can’t pass, we can’t run any type of offense.”
Griffith’s only lead of the entire night was a 1-0 advantage starting the second game. New Prairie’s drive to Griffith lasted longer than the 59-minute match.
New Prairie (34-2) advances to Saturday’s Plymouth Semistate semifinals.
New Prairie fans chanted “Whose house? Our house!” before the first and third games with nary a Griffith rebuttal.
After winning six consecutive state championships during his tenure at Marquette Catholic, Campbell is in his second season at New Prairie and believes his No. 3 Cougars have the makings of a champion.
“There is no doubt,” he said. “We’ve got all of the recipe and all of the ingredients. Last Saturday, we put it together against Andrean, and that was only the second time in these girls’ careers they’ve been in a fifth game.”
New Prairie, which came back from a 2-0 deficit to beat Andrean at the sectional, won its first regional since 1985 behind seven kills and four blocks by Jessica Ferrell. The Cougars also had five kills, two blocks and 15 assists from Ali Ritchie, five kills and four aces by Janelle Rehlander and four aces and five digs from Catherine Ament.
UNION MILLS | South Central could not keep Fort Wayne Blackhawk from stringing points together Tuesday night.
The Braves went on lengthy runs in each of their victorious sets as they beat the Satellites 25-14, 21-25, 25-19, 25-17 to win the Class A volleyball regional title.
“I told the team, ‘If we make mistakes, we’re going to be in trouble,’” South Central coach Ashley Rinker said. “That’s what happened. When you play a good team, you can’t dig yourselves a hole.”
South Central (26-6) led 14-12 in the fourth set, but the Braves closed out on a 13-3 run to claim the match.
Blackhawk had two spurts of five consecutive points during the spurt. Marta Bleed had seven kills and two assists in the set for the Braves (24-8).
A Briana Satoski kill and a Taylor Johnson block closed the Satellites to within 14-13 midway through the third set.
The Braves responded by scoring seven of the next 10 points to lead 21-16. South Central scored two in a row to get within three, but Blackhawk scored four of the last five points to take the set.
“We had a little hiccup,” Rinker said. “When you are playing a team as solid as they are, those little hiccups will cost you the match.”
South Central had a small lead throughout the second set, and after the Braves had trimmed the Satellite lead to 22-21, the Satellites capped the set with three consecutive points. Kaitlyn Jackson closed out the set with a kill.
“They played well,” Rinker said. “I thought we came in with a lot of heart, a lot of effort and a lot of want to win.”
Blackhawk used a 15-0 run in the opening set to build a commanding 16-3 lead.
Satoski led the Satellites with 11 kills. Jackson had eight kills and nine digs, while Katelyn Tucker added 16 assists.
South Central’s four seniors, Tucker, Satoski, Jackson and Taylor Johnson, bookended their careers with sectional titles in their freshmen and senior campaigns.
“They’ve been here since they’ve been freshmen, and they’ve been working hard all summer and all year,” Rinker said. I’m very proud of them.”
(all games today)
Class 4A Regional
Crown Point (28-8) at Munster (33-3), 7 p.m.
Advancement: Winner plays the winner of the Elkhart Central/Penn match at 10 a.m. Saturday in a semifinal of the Huntington North Semistate.
Players to watch: CROWN POINT — Meagan Fajman, Sr., RS; Abby Kvachkoff, Sr., MH; Caley Rainford, Sr., OH; Alyssa Kvarta, Jr., S. MUNSTER — Shannon Farrell, Sr., OH; Morgan Switalla, Sr., S; Elizabeth Kloos, Sr., MH; Blaire Barnett, Jr., S; Victoria Foster, Jr., OH.
Fast facts: Crown Point won its only regional championship in 1992, the same year as the Bulldogs' last sectional title. ... Munster won a championship in 2011, the first year the format changed to a one-game regional. ... The two teams met on Aug. 21, with Munster winning in three games.
Class 3A Regional
New Prairie (33-2) at Griffith (14-2), 7 p.m.
Advancement: Winner plays the winner of the FW Concordia/Fairfield match at 12:30 p.m. Saturday in a Plymouth Semistate.
Local players to watch: GRIFFITH — Lisette Roldan, Sr., OH; Talia Roldan, Fr., S/MH; Hannah Miller, Jr., OH.
Fast facts: New Prairie won its only regional title in 1985; Griffith has never won a regional championship. ... New Prairie is ranked No. 3 in the state in Class 3A.
Class 2A Regional
North Judson (11-25) at Bishop Noll (27-9), 7 p.m.
Advancement: Winner plays the winner of the Muncie Burris/Madison-Grant match at 10 a.m. Saturday in a semifinal of the Bremen Semistate.
Local players to watch: BISHOP NOLL — Carly Cappello, Jr., OH; Asya Hobbs, Sr., MH; Carissa Jones, Sr., OH; Brittany Anderson, Fr., S.
Fast facts: Bishop Noll won four consecutive regional titles from 1987-90. The Warriors haven't won since the multiclass system began. ... North Judson is the only team with a sub-.500 record remaining in the Class 2A bracket.
Class A Regionals
Pioneer (27-9) at Washington Twp. (26-8), 7 p.m.
Fort Wayne Blackhawk (23-8) at South Central (26-5), 7 p.m.
Advancement: The winner of the Pioneer/Washington Twp. match plays the winner of the Frontier/Lafayette Central Catholic match at 10 a.m. Saturday in a semifinal of the Caston Semistate. The winner of the Fort Wayne Blackhawk/South Central game will play the winner of Union/Wes-Del match at 11:30 a.m. Saturday in a semifinal of the Caston Semistate.
Local players to watch: WASHINGTON TWP. — Maddie Johnson, Sr., OH; Emily Holcomb, Sr., L; Samantha Higgins, Sr., OH. SOUTH CENTRAL — Briana Satoski, Sr., MB/OH; Katelyn Tucker, Sr., MB/OH; Kaitlyn Jackson, Sr., OH; Riley Popplewell, So., MH.
Fast facts: The Satellites won their fourth sectional title in program history and their first since 2010. South Central was swept by Elkhart Christian in regional play that season. ... The Senators are competing in their sixth consecutive regional and will face Pioneer for the fifth straight season. Washington Twp. beat Pioneer in 2011.
— Compiled by Hillary Smith & Paul Oren
UNION MILLS | Feeling the season slipping away after getting swept out of the first round of the Porter County Conference tournament, South Central volleyball coach Ashley Rinker knew she needed to try something unconventional.
She started by taking down the nets.
“We walked into practice and coach had us take down everything and we ran,” South Central senior Briana Satoski said. “We ran a ton and then we sat together and we talked. We talked about our motivation and that made us realize that we can’t wait around anymore. It was a real reality check.”
The coaching tactic worked as the Satellites didn’t lose a game at the Class A Oregon-Davis sectional last week, registering three straight sweeps, including a 25-11, 25-12, 25-12 win over the host Bobcats.
“We’re not practicing for skills at this point, so I knew we could lose the practice,” Rinker said. “If we’re still trying to learn the skills at this point of the season, we’ve got bigger problems. You go to practice to hit a ball and to stay in shape.”
Rinker reiterated to the team that the next loss would mean the end of the season and for several players, the end of their careers. The conversation impacted the entire team, especially Satoski. The senior put a lot on the line this season, stepping away from softball last year to solely focus on volleyball.
“We didn’t get out of the first round last season and that left me with a bad taste for the last year,” Satoski said. “When one person on the team is down we all get down, but since that practice, we’ve all been up.”
Satoski, who has given her verbal commitment to play volleyball at Goshen College next season, is one of four seniors that could be playing their final match of their career tonight against top-ranked Fort Wayne Blackhawk.
When addressing the end game of the season with her team, Rinker chose to look beyond just the seniors.
“Tomorrow isn’t promised to anyone,” Rinker said. “There are no guarantees. Just because you play this year doesn’t mean you’re playing next year. We have to approach every day like it could be the final practice; like it could be the final game.”
Preparation for tonight’s match began almost immediately after South Central won the sectional title. Rinker scouted the Braves on Saturday night while a conversation at a team dinner was more about the future than the past.
The Satellites are planning a “Red Out” and expect a packed house for their first regional game in three years.
“Now that we won the sectional, we’re not satisfied,” Satoski said. “We’re ready to keep this going.”
HAMMOND | Asya Hobbs has tried to explain her blocking technique to anyone who asks.
"I follow the pass and look at the setter and try to anticipate who is she going to set, then I just take my steps and close the block," Hobbs said. "I've tried to talk to my teammates about it because they've asked me how to improve their blocking. Then they just look at me like, what? That's how I do it, so I try to help when I can."
Her Bishop Noll teammates hope to duplicate anything close to the blocking numbers that the senior middle hitter has racked up this season.
Over the course of the last year, thanks to changes in her routine and three-sport schedule, she has added almost five inches to her vertical jump to reach 9-foot-8.
She has also added heft in every statistical category.
She has 263 total blocks, with 189 of those solo. That ranks her the best in the state among teams that have reported stats to the IHSAA-recommended MaxPreps data collection site. It also ranks her among the nation's top 10.
She's added 48 aces and 226 digs.
"She has unbelievable athleticism and leaping ability, and she is so quick off the floor," coach Dave Rodriguez said. "When some of the big middles look at her they think they can take advantage because she's shorter than them, but she explodes off the floor and surprises them."
From the middle hitter position, she has also picked up 365 kills, even as the Warriors (27-9) have outside hitters Carley Cappello and Carissa Jones to set to.
"She had a season-high 19 kills against Whiting in the sectional," Rodriguez said. "She doesn't normally average six kills a set, but we run her all over the floor. ... Sometimes she's so fast to the ball that the blocks don't react."
Hobbs and the Warriors won their first sectional title since 2007 on Saturday, leading to today's regional match against North Judson (11-25).
As Noll was extending its postseason, the girls basketball team opened tryouts Monday. Hobbs, who also plays basketball, hopes to have another two weeks of volleyball left to play to keep her hoops team at bay.
"When we're in season, we're in season and other coaches don't try to get you out of season, they understand," Hobbs said. "I'll just try out (for basketball) later and hopefully it'll be after state."
MICHIGAN CITY | The swing of emotions was palpable in the Marquette Catholic gym on Saturday night.
As far as sweeps go, Washington Township’s 25-11, 26-24, 25-19 Class A Marquette Catholic Sectional championship win over Westville was one of the more entertaining matches that’s likely to be seen as the Senators rode a first-set rout to hard-fought wins in games two and three.
Washington Twp. stayed on the emotional upswing throughout the night, but Westville rode an emotional roller coaster to exhaustion.
“We’ve played them twice already, so coming into this game we were very confident,” Washington Twp. coach Kevin Labaj said. “We knew things that we needed to do.
“Going into the second game, it was back-and-forth and towards the end we started to make mental mistakes. It was us losing the game for ourselves. We found a way to pull it out.”
Westville led the second game 1-0, 13-12 and 17-15, but a string of four straight points served by Lauren Kleist put Washington Twp. ahead 20-17. The Senators built up to a 23-19 lead, but the Blackhawks rallied with five straight points to take a 24-23 lead.
Washington Twp. scored the next three points to stave off a loss, punctuated by a Natalee Kwiatkowski ace that secured the 26-24 win.
“Both teams were definitely emotionally drained,” Labaj said. “But I think by us winning that (second set), it gave us the energy. The girls showed it on the court.”
The Senators jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the third set and never trailed.
In the first set, Washington Twp. also led wire-to-wire, highlighted by scoring runs of four points by Bethany Kingery and six points to close out the set by Samantha Higgins.
“They were a little exhausted from this morning’s game,” Labaj said. “We went home, had a good meal and took a little nap. That first game, they put everything into it – maybe a little too much. But they pushed through that second game and we pulled it out in the long run.”
KNOX | In the past two state tournaments, Andrean didn’t play against a team as potent as New Prairie until it reached the semistate.
That all changed Saturday as the two-time defending champion 59ers (26-9) were faced with trying to upset Class 3A No. 3 New Prairie in the Knox Sectional championship.
New Prairie (33-2) eventually earned its lofty ranking, rallying from a 2-0 deficit in sets to win its first title since in 11 years, 24-26, 18-25, 25-20, 25-16, 15-8.
The Niners, who were looking for their fifth sectional crown in seven seasons, rallied from a 23-19 deficit in the first set and stunned the Cougars as Marija Nicksic and Meranda Garcia each had two key kills in the run.
Andrean did likewise in the second set, rallying from an early 10-6 deficit to pull away for the victory. Nicksic and Mary Thomas had crucial kills down the stretch.
The Niners couldn’t carry that momentum over in the third set, as the Cougars built an 18-10 advantage and held on for a 25-20 win. New Prairie began to exert its will and won the fourth set in convincing fashion. The Niners never got closer than 21-15 late in the match.
The Cougars jumped out to a 10-5 lead in the decisive fifth set and never looked back.
New Prairie advances to the regional to be played at the winner of Griffith and Clark at the Clark Sectional.
The loss ends the stellar careers of Andrean seniors Nicksic Marisa Beemsterboer Kate Meccia and Kellie Wojciecowski and Lauren Stazinski.
In the semifinal rounds, Andrean advanced with a 25-14, 25-21 21-25, 25-16 win over Knox after New Prairie eliminated Hanover Central 25-10, 25-16, 25-20. Hanover finished 20-5.
CROWN POINT | Bob Dylan sang about serving somebody back in the late 1970s. His crooning was unique and some would say awful.
On Saturday at the Class 4A Crown Point Sectional, the host Bulldogs served like Dylan sang in the morning semifinal, then hit the notes better in the championship against Chesterton.
In a exhausting win over LaPorte, C.P. had 20 service errors. In the final against the Trojans, only 11 bad serves occurred.
The Bulldogs won 26-24, 25-19, 25-11, to win the program's first sectional championship since 1992.
“It was much better tonight,” C.P. coach Allison Duncan said of her team's serving. “This means a lot. We've worked hard for the last four years. This was all about setting the tempo.”
Crown Point (28-8) will travel to Munster for the regional Tuesday.
Chesterton (23-13) was one point from winning the first game, but the Bulldogs roared back for the very emotional win.
“We've been in tough games all year,” said C.P. senior Abby Kvachkoff, who had nine kills.
Kvachkoff got most of her kills sliding behind the setters and finishing strong.
“The slide was open against them,” she said. “This is a great feeling, because it hasn't happened in so long.”
Junior Alyssa Kvarta had a monster game, with 10 kills, 27 assists and she was 12-of-12 serving with two aces. She said she cried after beating LaPorte in the semifinal because her team was that much closer to realizing a dream.
She had a fabric heart in her sock that one of her club coaches, Troy Campbell, gave to her.
“We like to cheer really loud,” Kvarta said. “If we make a mistake, we bounce back. Our main priority is to be loud and get in their heads. It totally works.”
It was the third time C.P. had beaten Chesterton this year.
In the first morning semifinal C.P. beat LaPorte 30-32, 25-23, 25-12, 16-25, 15-13. It was the Bulldogs first win over the Slicers this season. Kvarta had 16 kills, 37 assists and 14 digs.
Kvachkoff added 11 kills and Meagan Fajman had 10 kills.
In an even more grueling contest, Chesterton beat Valparaiso 17-25, 17-25, 25-23, 25-23, 16-14. Jessica Urycki had 14 kills. Shelby Snyder had 20 assists and Kennedy Baltus had 19. Jordyn Moleski had 20 digs.
Chesterton coach TR Harlan knew losing the first game was big. His team had three hours less rest and was coming off a very emotional win against Valpo.
As the championship game wore on, the Trojans seemed to lose a step, both physically and emotionally.
“I was pretty sure the first game's outcome would determine how the rest of the match went,” Harlan said. “If we win that game we can ride that emotion. People say you can keep going back to the well but eventually it'll be dry.”
Emily Marcus had nine kills in the championship, Shelby Snyder had 11 assists and Jordyn Moleski had 12 digs for the Trojans.
HAMMOND | An angry Kristi Hoese used a timeout early in the first game of Saturday's Clark Class 3A Sectional championship to voice her displeasure with Griffith's play.
The verbal lashing took a game to set in, but the Panthers eventually responded and swept the host Pioneers 25-19, 25-14, 25-4 to win their second straight sectional title Saturday night. It was Griffith's third title in four years.
Griffith came into the sectional on three straight losses to Munster, Andrean and Bishop Noll, but Hoese didn't think much of those defeats.
"We came into the sectional with a 0-0 record," the first-year Griffith coach said. "We came in with a positive mindset. We need to play our game and not stoop to other teams' levels, which we tend to do."
Griffith beat Gavit Thursday night but had a tough afternoon semifinal against Lew Wallace, which resulted in a blowout and unsteady play.
Clark (8-22) came out feisty and set Griffith on its heels.
Back-to-back solo block kills by senior Tique Woods gave the Pioneers a 12-11 lead, which caused Hoese to take the timeout. The break didn't deter Clark, which has seen its share of tough luck this season.
"They played the best they could," Clark coach Stephanie Vargas said. "We've overcome injuries and a lot of lineup changes. We lost our senior setter Sara Kruszynski in the third week of the season and we have had to fight back from that.
"The girls have done everything I've asked of them."
The Panthers also responded to their coach's plea to clean up their game.
In the second set, junior setter Rhiannon Kozy served six straight points to give Griffith a 13-6 lead. That run included three kills by senior outside hitter Lisette Roldan and one kill by her freshman sister Talia.
The Panthers maintained control of the set, then took that momentum into the third set -- a 25-4 win -- to sweep the Pioneers.
"Clark came out strong," Hoese said. "They gave us a run for our money. But our girls did a great job. Our passing game allowed us to use our hitting game."
Lisette Roldan finished with 12 kills and Talia Roldan notched 16.
For Lisette, a third sectional title in four years means a lot. She's also had three coaches in four years.
"We really haven't had the best of records," she said, "but I told my teammates that we had nothing to lose. We just needed to play the best we can."
The Panthers will host New Prairie in Tuesday's regional.
Clark advanced to the championship match by beating Hammond 25-21, 25-15, 25-20. In the second semifinal, Griffith beat Lew Wallace 25-10, 25-10, 25-5.
MUNSTER | With a sectional championship on the line after defeating a huge rival in Saturday's Class 4A Munster Sectional semifinals, the day could have been all about volleyball for Munster.
However, when Munster junior Colleen Lusk died Wednesday after a long battle with cystic fibrosis, the Mustangs' 25-18, 25-12, 25-11 sectional championship win over Highland was about much more than volleyball.
The Mustangs came out wearing purple shoelaces and headbands as a symbol of cystic fibrosis awareness. Shannon Farrell, a senior outside hitter for the Mustangs, was shaken up when asked about Lusk, a former volleyball player, after the match.
"We wore purple to practice on Tuesday before she passed," Farrell said. "Our whole school wore it on Tuesday, too. That helped us stay together as a team, too. I was good friends with her."
"After they had a candlelight vigil (Thursday), the girls walked in and they were bawling," Munster coach Tracy Summers added. "I just thought 'Oh my goodness, this is so hard for a high (school player) to deal with grief.'"
Munster (33-3) was coming off a 25-22, 20-25, 25-19, 25-16 semifinal win over Lake Central earlier in the day. With their efforts focused on avenging last season's sectional championship loss to the Indians, it would have been easy for the Mustangs to get down for the championship.
However, an early 11-10 lead against Highland in the first set ballooned to 17-10, and that was the momentum the Mustangs needed for the rest of the match.
"It feels really good, especially beating Lake Central earlier," said Farrell, who had four aces and 15 digs in the championship. "The excitement from the game earlier carried over. We knew we had it, and all we had to do was play our game to win."
Highland stuck to its early game plan of picking certain points on the court to attack and defending specific tendencies Munster runs, but weren't able to continue it for the entirety of the match.
"Playing (Munster) is always a challenge," Highland coach Matt Clark said. "They've got quality kids. They're kind of the hump. Once you can take some games and take a match from them, you know you're doing the right thing."
In the other Saturday semifinal, the Trojans defeated West Side 25-9, 25-4, 25-7. Brittany Raab had 11 aces in that win.
PORTER TWP. | Bishop Noll’s attack was firing on all cylinders in Saturday’s Class 2A sectional title match against Whiting.
The Warriors totaled 47 kills, led by 19 from Asya Hobbs, as they swept the Oilers 25-12, 25-21, 25-20 to win their first volleyball sectional title since 2007.
“When our hitters are clicking, our offense is running, we stay balanced and we stay in control, I think we’re tough,” Bishop Noll coach David Rodriguez said.
The Warriors (27-9) will host the winner of the North Judson-San Pierre Sectional in regional play Tuesday.
Bishop Noll led 9-8 early in the third set and then went on a run, scoring 15 of the next 21 points to get to match point at 24-14.
The Oilers staved off six match points before Emily Johnson ended the match with a kill. Carissa Jones had five kills in the set for the Warriors.
The two teams traded the lead in the second set, and the Oilers (22-12) had a 20-18 lead after a block from Kaylyn Anderson and a Bishop Noll hitting error.
The Warriors scored seven of the last eight points to claim the set. Carly Cappello and Jones finished off the set with back-to-back kills.
“We knew Whiting would be tough from the start,” Cappello said. “We just all decided that this is what we want, and we want it more so we have to push and know we have to do work on the court.”
Cappello had 14 kills in the match, while Jones finished with nine.
“We tried to run away from Kaylyn (Anderson) a little bit,” Rodriguez said of the offense. “More often than not we did take advantage of our speed and ability to put the ball down.”
Bishop Noll scored the first four points of the match and never looked back in the opening set. The Warriors never let the Oilers get closer than three the rest of the way.
Johnson led the Warriors with 20 assists, and Brittany Anderson added 16. Jones and Hobbs each recorded 16 digs.
Anderson had 14 kills to lead the Oilers. Courtney Blackwell had 17 assists, while Bri Blackwell and Millie Lorasko each had 13 digs.
Whiting beat Hebron 25-18, 25-17, 25-19 to reach the final, while the Warriors swept host Boone Grove 25-13, 25-9, 25-16.
MICHIGAN CITY | Washington Township and host Marquette Catholic each swept their opponents on Thursday night and now have their sights squarely set on each other.
The Senators rolled over Morgan Township by scores of 25-7, 25-16, 25-19, while the Blazers breezed past Covenant Christian 25-20, 25-9, 25-9 in Class A sectional action.
The two will face off in Saturday’s second semifinal. Gary 21st Century will play Westville in the other semifinal.
After leading from start to finish in the opening two games, the Senators (24-8) had to come from behind to complete the sweep.
The Cherokees led by as many as six in the game and had a 15-9 advantage when the Senators called a timeout. Washington Township trimmed the deficit to two, but the Cherokees responded to lead 18-13.
The Senators scored 12 of the final 13 points to take win the game 25-19. Lauren Kleist, Madeline Johnson and Mariss Brys all tallied kills during the run. Kleist recorded four kills in the game.
“I don’t like things being easy for them,” Washington Township coach Kevin Labaj said. “I like them going the tough road. Saturday’s going to be a very tough game for us.”
Washington Township raced out to a 14-3 lead in the opening game and closed it out for a 25-7 win.
Kleist and Brys each had for kills for the Senators in their game two win. Kleist finished with 10 kills to lead the Senators. Brys totaled seven kills, and Caitlyn Lembke had 24 assists.
Courtney Maxwell had five kills to lead the Cherokees.
The Blazers (22-11) overcame a slow start in game one to easily defeat the Knights.
Marquette trailed 13-11 before going on a spurt to lead 19-14. The Knights closed to within three at 23-20, but the Blazers scored the final two points to take the game. Allison Back closed the game with an ace.
“They were overplaying it and over-thinking everything,” Marquette coach Jan Fitzpatrick said of the opening game. “There was too much adrenaline coming out, making so many unforced errors.”
The Blazers jumped out to a 15-3 lead in game two and later finished it off with five straight points.
Game three was close early on with Marquette holding a 10-7 lead. The Blazers then scored 10 straight points, with five coming on aces from Haley Mellen, to take a commanding lead.
Zoya Ganz had 16 kills to lead the Blazers. Sabrina Brown added 10 kills, while Camille Burnett had 30 assists.
Jennifer Heerema, Courtney VanderMeer and Renae Buiter all had two kills for the Knights.
PORTER TWP. | Nicole Malouhos has a philosophy when it comes to battling back from a deficit that the Boone Grove senior could very well apply to winning a sectional championship.
"We need to take things one by one," Malouhos said. "It's my little saying and my teammates make fun of me for it all the time."
The Wolves got the first one out of the way Thursday night as Malouhos led the host Wolves with 13 kills in a 25-11, 25-21, 25-23 win over River Forest in the Class 2A sectional.
Boone Grove will take on Bishop Noll in Saturday's second semifinal while Hebron and Whiting will meet in the opener.
"We all act like Nicole is our mom and that (her saying) is a very mom-like thing to say," Boone Grove senior Sky Hall said. "But she's right, you can't score more than one point at a time in volleyball."
The Wolves (19-9) raced out to a 16-3 lead in the first game and never struggled in the first two games as Malouhos and Hall overpowered a youthful River Forest squad. It wasn't until the third game when the Wolves started to stutter a bit on the floor.
"Volleyball is a tough sport because when you go up 2-0, teams tend to take a deep breath in that third game and relax," Boone Grove coach Linda Eleftheri said. "We've got to remind them that the match isn't over until you win that third game."
Malouhos' philosophy showed up in the third game when the Ingots (12-14) took a 14-9 lead. Instead of pressing, the Wolves stayed compose and rattled off a 10-1 run to take command of the match.
"Coach told us this week that it was just time to play volleyball," Malouhos said. "Come tournament time you just need to go out and do it."
Caylyn Bellar and Alondra Avalos led the Ingots with eight kills apiece while Alexis Nuzzo added 20 digs. Coach Patty Sparks had a team primarily comprised of underclassmen on the court as the Ingots had just two seniors in uniform.
"For us to be a young team and to be able to contend tonight, I have to give my girls a lot of respect," Sparks said. "This was the first sectional experience for a lot of them and we gained so much experience."
The Warriors made quick work of Bowman Academy in the nightcap, defeating the Eagles 25-2, 25-7, 25-3.
"We focused on our serve and covered well tonight," Bishop Noll coach David Rodriguez said. "We'll take that momentum into Saturday's game against a very good Boone Grove team."
KNOX | Wheeler coach Alisha Polite clapped her hands, urging on her young Bearcat squad from just outside the sideline in the fourth set of Thursday’s match with host Knox in the Class 3A sectional.
Freshman Payton Schoon did the same from the front line as the Bearcats (18-16) fought off elimination, trailing 21-17 and down 2-1 in sets.
Knox held off youthful Wheeler 25-21, 25-21, 16-25 and 25-19 to advance to Saturday’s second semifinal match against Andrean, a 25-18, 19-25, 25-20, 25-22 winner over Kankakee Valley.
Wheeler had five players on the floor at all times who had never played in a sectional before.
“We’ve come back three different times in the season down 23-19 and have won, so I don’t every get agitated when we’re down,” Polite said. “I don’t like it, but my girls have the fight.
“It’s the inexperience that we have that sometimes get us.”
Wheeler fell behind 15-5 in the first set, 15-9 in the second before rallying to win the third set.
Wheeler led early 8-6 in the fourth set before falling behind 16-10. It got to within 21-17 on freshman Payton Schoon’s block but would get no closer.
Sophomore Jordynn Parks finished with 13 kills, while Schoon had four. Senior Cristina Gamboa collected 11 digs, and freshman Brittney Ittersagen added nine.
“We’ve come a long way from where we started,” Gamboa said. “Me and Mackenzie Schoon are the only two seniors this year. The team is very young, but we worked really hard all season.”
Gamboa said she looks for the team to vastly improve as the players get more experience playing club volleyball and other high school sports.
“They’re going to be a lot stronger, and I’m so exciting to come and see them play.”
The loss added a string of five straight sectional titles for Wheeler, all in Class 2A.
“We’re a smaller 3A school, and that’s something we have to adjust to,” Polite said.
In Saturday’s semifinals, Knox plays Andrean after Hanover Central battles No. 3 New Prairie at 10 a.m. The championship is at 7 p.m.
CROWN POINT | Visions and reality often prove incongruent.
When Chesterton coach TR Harlan imagined his ideal lineup for this season back in training camp, he didn’t think the sectional opener would be his first chance to use it.
However, Ali Ostrom’s unlucky right ankle forced her to miss about 10 weeks and 22 matches, and the Trojans grew up without one of their three seniors -- the only 6-foot-1 player on the team.
“It feels good to be back,” said Ostrom, who has been back in action for about a week.
“When I was out I still supported the team, but it feels a lot better to be out on the court and help them succeed.”
Succeed they did, as Chesterton beat Portage for the third time this season, ousting the Indians 25-20, 25-15, 25-18 Thursday at the Class 4A Crown Point Sectional.
The Trojans (22-12) advanced to Saturday’s second semifinal, where they’ll face Valparaiso, Thursday night’s other winner. The Vikings (21-12) and Trojans split their matches in the regular season.
“All in all, it’s everything you want out of tonight,” TR Harlan said. “You get a win, get to go home as early as you can, get to practice (today) and get a chance to come back and play on Saturday.”
Chesterton lost its sectional opener last year and had many girls lacking postseason experience. Once junior Aubrey Nagdeman served up several points in a row and the Trojans adjusted to an unfamiliar Portage defensive scheme, Chesterton had control.
Sammi Ostrom, the 6-foot freshman sister of Ali, led the Trojans with seven kills. Brittany Milzarek, a 6-foot freshman who joined the varsity after Ali Ostrom’s injury, added six.
Ali Ostrom, who had offseason ankle surgery to repair torn tendons and then tore ligament in the same right ankle in the second match of the season, had four kills, two digs and two solo blocks.
“There was good energy tonight,” she said. “Everyone was playing together, and it was a pretty good effort.”
Portage (15-19), which has improved its win total each year under third-year coach Brian Zofkie, played close with Chesterton into the teens of each game.
The first game was tied at 16, the second at 11 and the third at 13.
“When you’re tied 10-10, it shows you can play with a team for 20 points, but after that it was tough for us to keep it up,” Zofkie said.
Seniors Mariah Wright and Josi Auksel led the Indians with five kills each.
“It (hurts) losing a great group of four seniors because they were a great group, and I have a tremendous appreciation for them,” Zofkie said. “Without them we wouldn’t have made the progress we made.”
In the nightcap, Michigan City’s high-energy play led the Wolves to a 15-12 lead in the opener after a 1-0 lead on a long match-opening volley. The game was tied seven times, including at 21-all, but a Dani Suiter solo block ended the game with Valpo on top 25-22 and quieted the Wolves, who struggled mightily in a 25-8 Game 2 loss and fell short 25-18 in the third.
“They came out super-energized, and a lot of our players were nervous with it being their first time in the sectional,” Valpo coach Katie Lenard said. “It was just a matter of getting everything worked out. (The second game) showed the girls what they are capable of.”
Kate Bontrager led the Vikings with 10 kills and 14 digs.
Brooke Westphal had 16 kills and 15 digs for the Wolves (6-25).
HAMMOND | It's a little different when trophies are on the line.
Griffith lost to Gavit during the regular season in five games, then beat the Gladiators in two in tournament plays.
The Panthers swept Gavit 25-16, 25-22, 25-17 Thursday to advance to the second round of the Class 3A Clark sectional.
"(The difference was) knowing what the game was for," Panthers coach Kristi Hoese said. "We felt like tonight was the championship."
Hammond also advanced, winning the first match over Roosevelt 25-9, 25-9, 25-9.
Griffith was in control for almost the duration. The Panthers had an eight-point run in the first game, an eight-point run in the third game and never trailed in game two.
The only stumble was late in the second game when Gavit tied the game at 20-20. Hoese called a timeout.
"I just them, 'What are you here for? You know what you have to do. Play your game,'" Hoese said. "And they went back out and played their game."
The Gladiators may have let the nerves get to them in the first postseason game, coach Amy Osario said.
"They just didn't seem to be on today," Osario said. "They just didn't seem to have that fight in them to start off the game."
Osario tried moving some personnel around to jump start her squad in the third game, but it was too late.
"I was hoping to maybe get some girls fired up, try something new. It's worked in the past," Osario said. "I wanted to see if maybe that was the spark they needed to get going and unfortunately it didn't work out."
Hammond cruised through its meeting with Roosevelt. The Wildcats are already looking forward to the next round against crosstown rival Clark. The two split the regular season series.
"I think my girls are pretty fired up. They're ready to play Clark," coach Mary Hunter said. "We were using this game tonight as a practice game to work out some other stuff and build our confidence."
MUNSTER | In Niyah Hall's previous three years playing volleyball for West Side, she and her Cougars teammates never got a chance to taste what it was like to advance past the opening round of the girls volleyball sectional.
On Thursday, Hall's efforts were exactly what the Cougars needed to taste that success.
The senior outside/middle hitter led the Cougars with 11 kills, displaying clutch play all along as West Side defeated E.C. Central 25-15, 23-25, 25-11, 25-23 in an opening round match of the Class 4A Munster Sectional. The Cougars avenged a recent regular season loss to the Cardinals in five sets.
“It feels great because we've worked hard to get here,” Hall said. “Just to get out of that first round, it feels awesome. We'll try to celebrate this win.”
The Cougars were missing their head coach, Alexandria Bradley, who was attending a mandatory meeting for her other job. Junior varsity coach Carolyn Sweetzer filled in, and was pleased with Hall's effort and the team's effort overall.
“She's a captain and a leader,” Sweetzer said. “She stepped up and became an all-around player (this year). She was able to attack, she was able to hit. She stepped up for me. She knows the game. She's been around it for a long time.”
Hall played a big part in every set, including the narrow loss in the second set. The Cougars were down by as many as 19-8 at one point and rallied before falling just short.
“I've got to pick up the slack,” Hall said. “Being a captain of the team, I try to keep people motivated, because it's not over until that last point.”
“That was heart, because our motto is not to give up and keep pushing,” Sweetzer added. “We were coming out here with a win (in our heads) today.”
West Side advances to play Highland in one semifinal at 11:30 a.m. Saturday. The Trojans defeated the Red Devils 25-21, 25-20, 21-25, 25-10 in Thursday's nightcap.
“The game we lost, our middles got taken out of the game,” Highland coach Matt Clark said. “When we're running our middles well, our outsides benefit and we've got girls who can put the ball away when the opportunity is there. I'm proud of them, they played their butts off.”
Morgan Lenhart led the Trojans with 14 kills, while Brittany Fowler had 33 assists.
MUNSTER | Blaire Barnett and her Munster teammates never look past an opponent.
However, Wednesday's Munster Sectional opener against Morton gave the Mustangs a chance to fine tune their games as the postseason unfolds.
Munster received a dominant performance out of Barnett, a junior setter, in a 25-5, 25-4, 25-13 win over the Governors.
"Blaire has an awesome sidespin serve that not a lot of players in the area have," Munster coach Tracy Summers said. "She can mix it up as well, which is nice. When she's on, it's pretty tough to stop."
Barnett was certainly tough to stop. She led Munster with seven aces and the Mustangs compiled 21 as a team, catching Morton out of position several times on serves.
"I always try hard to mix it up a little," Barnett said. "Tonight, it was fun to be able to try different things. I like serving because it's your own personal thing and you don't have to rely on other people."
Morton gave Munster (31-3) a much tougher third set, but the Mustangs limited Morton's attacking overall. Amanda Colvin led the Governors with three kills and five digs, while three other players had two kills.
Shannon Farrel had 10 digs and six aces for Munster, while Morgan Switalla led the Mustangs with 17 assists.
"Tonight's match, we used to work on some things we need to get better at," Summers said. "I think that we are a really strong team."
Munster advances to play Lake Central at 10 a.m. Saturday in one semifinal match. The last time the Mustangs and Indians met on Aug. 27, it was an instant classic, as Munster battled to a five-set win.
"Every year it's a nail-biter, a great game to watch," Summers said. "We've been working the whole season for Saturday. I feel a lot of confidence going in. It's coming in with that game face and playing fearless, which has been our motto all year."
MICHIGAN CITY | Westville cruised to a 25-17, 25-16, 25-11 sweep Tuesday over Kouts in the opening game of the Class A Volleyball Regional at Marquette Catholic.
Leading wire to wire in game one and for the majority of games two and three, Westville (20-7) easily handled Kouts, who did not seem to have an answer for Ashley McClintock. McClintock totaled nine aces and 10 kills in the win.
"Ashley has been a beast all season," Westville head coach Omar Vazquez said. "She has been unbelievable, but (she) has been getting a lot of help."
Much of that help came from Samantha Albers, who had seven aces and 10 kills for the Blackhawks.
"She brings a lot to the table," Vazquez said of Albers. "Her improvement has been tremendous. ... Four of our servers were really good (Tuesday) and took advantage of a lot of free balls. We have a nice mix going."
Westville led from the start in the opening game, and really broke through with three consecutive service aces to open up a 13-5 lead.
Kouts (6-19) had an early 2-0 lead in both the second and third games, but a 5-0 run in game two with McClintock serving proved to be the difference. Beth Piotrowski had the clinching point in the game two win.
An 8-0 run with McClintock serving in the clinching game gave the Blackhawks a 19-6 lead, ending Kouts' season soon after.
Britney Sparks added 10 assists for Westville.
"I think with each game we've been getting better," Kouts head coach Karyl VanDyke said. "We knew (McClintock) was their bread and butter, but we are a young team excited about next year."
With the win, Westville advances to take on Gary 21st Century on Saturday in the semifinals.
"We will win that match and be in the finals," Vazquez said. "I've seen (Gary 21st Century) play. They do not have the personnel we have; it is that simple."
CROWN POINT | Losing generates a hunger, either to taste revenge or serve it chilled.
But any good meal includes appetizers and salads before the main dish, and that’s what LaPorte and Crown Point feasted on Tuesday in the opening round of the Class 4A Crown Point Sectional.
With a sweep of rival Merrillville, the host Bulldogs (26-8) advanced to face LaPorte, which won Tuesday’s sectional opener with a sweep of Hobart in the first semifinal.
“We’re definitely excited about it,” Crown Point libero Jordyn Banske said. “We’re not trying to be like, ‘We’re going to win state,’ but we’re looking forward to playing LaPorte. We knew we needed to get through today first, but we’ve definitely improved since we last played.”
The Slicers (19-15) swept the season series with Crown Point, including a victory that ended a 10-match winning streak for the ‘Dogs.
Tuesday’s dominating 25-12, 25-17, 25-13 sweep of Hobart showed Slicers coach Erin Parker that her team is ready for the postseason.
The ripple effect of LaPorte football player Jake West’s death weighed heavy on the community, and the volleyball team was not immune. After a 13-6 start, the heavy-hearted Slicers, who start three freshmen, went 6-9 in their final 15 matches.
“Tonight I just saw a lot of intensity,” Parker said. “Tonight I saw a lot of desire. They know now that it’s win or go home. I could see they didn’t want to go home yet.”
Freshman Natalie Santana had nine kills and two solo blocks, and Shaina Perry added seven for the much more aggressive Slicers, who totaled eight service aces.
The Brickies (12-20) were out of sync most of the evening. Junior Zoe Wilson led the team with 10 kills.
“A lot of underclassmen had to perform for us this year, and they did,” Hobart coach Justin Verbich said. “But LaPorte has that experience of knowing how to win sectional games.”
Merrillville didn’t have much experience with victory in recent years, but the Pirates (11-20) improved five wins from a year ago and hung tough with the Bulldogs Tuesday, especially in a very winnable third game.
Crown Point let Merrillville hang around into the double digits in the first two games before pulling out 25-15 and 25-19 wins. Merrillville led the third game 23-22 on a Victoria Gaines block, but Crown Point, which had fallen behind due to five consecutive hitting errors, finished the sweep with an ace from Taylor Sabato.
“We knew we were down, and our attitudes seemed down (in the third game),” Banske said. “We had talked before about staying positive, and everyone was picking each other up with positive feedback.”
Banske had 10 digs, and Sabato had 14 digs with four aces. All-everything setter Alyssa Kvarta had eight kills, most of them to bust Merrillville momentum in the first two games, to go with 29 assists and 13 digs.
“Merrillville is scrappy, they have heart, and they definitely wanted to come out with a win,” C.P. coach Alison Duncan said.
Jaz Talley led the Pirates with four kills and four blocks. Gaines had 10 digs and three blocks, and Maya Griffin had four kills.
KNOX | Maybe Hanover Central was looking ahead to playing Class 3A No. 3 New Prairie as it faced winless Calumet in Tuesday’s opening match at the Knox Sectional.
The Wildcats still won in three sets over the Warriors, 25-17, 25-7 and 25-16, but first-year Hanover coach Erin Zeller wasn’t pleased with the performance.
“This is not exactly how we wanted to start off,” she said. “Calumet is a conference opponent. We played them last week, and we were able to come out really strong against them.
“Then to come back and play like this (Tuesday), I’m kind of a little disappointed.”
Zeller thought her squad played too slowly and didn’t execute like it will need to do Saturday against New Prairie.
“We need to come out and play our best game,” Zeller said. “We need to execute every play and then recover underneath the ball, and that didn’t happen tonight.”
Hanover (20-4) took a 10-1 lead in the first set, but let Calumet draw within 22-16 before closing it out. Hanover dominated the second set, but it fell behind 7-4 in the third set before rallying for the win.
Zeller said Hanover can’t let better opponents go on runs like Calumet did in the third set.
“In volleyball, it’s hard to come back from that kind of deficit, especially against New Prairie,” she said. “We’re going to have to limit our mistakes and execute right away.”
Savanna Zakman had 8 digs and 9 kills for Hanover, while Itzel Lagunas added 12 kills.
Zakman agreed with Zeller’s assessment, and said they’ll have to find New Prairie’s weak spot to win.
“We’ll have to play hard,” she said. “We’re definitely going to bring more momentum and more intensity in that game on Saturday. You’re going to see a whole different team that what you saw (Tuesday).”
It was tough end to the season for Warriors (0-22), who have mainly juniors and freshmen, but they never quit.
“We do have a short team, bless their hearts, but they don’t stop,” said first-year coach Bonnie Williams. “It doesn’t matter what their disadvantages are, they come out ready to play. They want to win, and they work really hard.”
Wheeler plays Knox at 6 p.m. Thursday before Andrean battles Kankakee Valley.
PORTER TWP. | Whiting trailed just once Tuesday night, a brief 1-0 deficit to start the third set.
The Oilers recovered quickly, however, jumping out to a 5-1 lead before closing out a three-game sweep of Lake Station in first-round Class A sectional action at Boone Grove.
“We had a couple of instances where we made a couple of mistakes that led into a couple of points for them, but that’s something we need to clean up,” Whiting coach Kelly Greer said.
“I think overall, (we) played well.”
Whiting won 25-14, 25-16, 25-14 to advance to Saturday’s second round. The Oilers had several serving runs of four or more points during the sweep.
“They’re usually consistent servers. We don’t have a problem with serving,” Greer said. “Sometimes it’s our ability to function as a team that is our downfall.”
The Oilers functioned well Tuesday night.
In the first set, Whiting jumped out to a 4-0 lead served by Brianna Blackwell and led 8-1 to force a Lake Station timeout.
After the break, the Eagles fought back to within 11-7 but Whiting cruised the rest of the way while taking advantage of back-to-back aces by Kaylyn Anderson to make it 20-11, and an ace by Grace Huss at 22-12, and a set-winning kill by Blackwell.
Whiting jumped out to an 11-3 lead on an ace by Anderson in the second set, but the Eagles fought back to tie the match at 12-12 on an ace by Ashlinn Jorgensen -- the only tie in any game.
The Oilers only allowed four more points in the set, though. An ace by Blackwell at 21-14 forced a Lake Station timeout but the Eagles only won one more point after the timeout when the set-point serve went into the net.
Blackwell’s kill won the set on the next point.
In the third set, Lake Station went ahead 1-0 on an illegal hit by the Oilers, but Whiting recovered with a five-point serving run by Blackwell. Back-to-back aces by Mollie Lovasko made it 16-8 and Anderson served five straight points to secure the victory, ending the set and the match with an ace.
“I think we could play a little bit better. We don’t have time for that (errors in the postseason). We have to come back with something strong and positive," Greer said.
The Oilers will face Hebron at 11 a.m. on Saturday.
“We played Hebron at the beginning of the season, so we’re familiar with them. We’re just going to practice defense, because defense wins ballgames," Greer said.
(last week's rankings in parentheses; records through Saturday's games)
1. Crown Point (2) 24-8
2. Lake Central (1) 22-7
3. Munster (3) 28-4
4. Andrean (4) 23-8
5. Valparaiso (7) 19-12
6. Hanover Central (5) 17-3
7. Kankakee Valley (6) 21-5
8. Washington Township (8) 21-8
9. Calumet Christian (9) 29-3
10. LaPorte (10) 18-15
On the bubble: Chesterton (21-12), Bishop Noll (24-9), Whiting (19-10), Boone Grove (17-9), Gavit (19-9).
Morton vs. Munster, 6 p.m.
E.C. Central vs. West Side, 6 p.m.
Lowell vs. Highland, 7:30 p.m.
Lake Central vs. Morton-Munster winner, 10 a.m.
E.C. Central-West Side winner vs. Lowell-Highland winner, 11:30 a.m.
Championship, 4 p.m.
Defending champion: Lake Central.
Favorite: Munster. Darkhorse: Lake Central.
Advancement: Winner hosts winner of the Crown Point Sectional in the regional Oct. 29.
Players to watch: E.C. CENTRAL: Bianca Krol, Sr., MH; Jasmyn Becerra. MORTON: Amanda Colvin, Jr., OH; Kendria Huff, Jr., MH; Vonnicia Felder, S. HIGHLAND: Brittany Fowler, Sr., S; Allison Jorsch, Sr., MH; Morgan Lenhart, Sr., OH. LAKE CENTRAL: Tori Gardenhire, So., MH; Dani Ellis, Jr., DS; Taylor Ellis, Jr., L; Brooke Renner, Jr., MH; Megan Malatestinic, Sr., OH. LOWELL: Ashley DeBoer, Jr., OH; Hunter Jusevitch, Jr., DS. MUNSTER: Shannon Farrell, Sr., OH; Morgan Switalla, Sr., S; Elizabeth Kloos, Sr., MH; Blaire Barnett, Jr., S; Victoria Foster, Jr., OH.
Fast facts: Munster's stretch of four straight titles was broken up by Lake Central's five-game win last season. … Since the four-team regional became a two-team regional in 2011, the winner of this sectional has advanced to the semistate round in each turn.
Crown Point Sectional
LaPorte vs. Hobart, 5:30 p.m.
Crown Point vs. Merrillville, 7 p.m.
Portage vs. Chesterton, 5:30 p.m.
Valparaiso vs. Michigan City, 7 p.m.
LaPorte-Hobart winner vs. Crown Point-Merrillville winner, 11 a.m.
Portage-Chesterton winner vs. Valparaiso-Michigan City winner, 12:30 p.m.
Championship, 7 p.m.
Defending champion: Valparaiso
Favorite: Crown Point. Darkhorse: LaPorte.
Advancement: Winner plays at the winner of the Munster Sectional in the regional Oct. 29.
Players to watch: CHESTERTON: Sara Tarnowski, Sr., OH/L; Jessica Urycki, Jr., OH; Ali Ostrom, Sr., MH; CROWN POINT: Meagan Fajman, Sr., RS; Abby Kvachkoff, Sr., MH; Caley Rainford, Sr., OH; Alyssa Kvarta, Jr., S; HOBART: Cayley Pruitt, Sr., OH/MH; Jessica Parlock, So., OH; Geena Lammertin, Sr., Sr., RS; Zoe Wilson, Jr., MH. LAPORTE: Kenzie Haite, Jr., S; Clair Marshall, Sr., OH; Danielle Plank, Sr., L; MERRILLVILLE: Myranda Harris, Sr., OH; Jaz Talley, Jr., OH; Rianna Todd, Sr., S; Maya Griffin, So., DS; MICHIGAN CITY: Makayla Adams, Sr., MH; Brooke Westphal, Jr., OH; Casey Neulieb, Jr., DS; PORTAGE: Mariah Wright, Sr., OH; Josi Auksel, Sr., MH; VALPARAISO: Noelle Eveland, Sr., OH; Kate Bontrager, Jr., OH; Rachel Bontrager, Fr., MH.
Fast facts: The last Lake County team from this field to win a title was Merrillville in 2002. … Valparaiso won back-to-back titles in 2011 and 2012. LaPorte won six titles from 2005 through 2010.
Roosevelt vs. Hammond, 6 p.m.
Gavit vs. Griffith, 7:30 p.m.
Clark vs. Roosevelt-Hammond winner, 11 a.m.
Lew Wallace vs. Gavit-Griffith winner, 12:30 p.m.
Championship, 7 p.m.
Defending champion: Griffith.
Favorite: Griffith. Darkhorse: Gavit.
Advancement: Winner hosts the winner of the Knox Regional in the regional Oct. 29.
Players to watch: GRIFFITH: Lisette Roldan, Sr., OH; Talia Roldan, Fr., S/MH; Rhiana Kozy, Jr., S; Hannah Miller, Jr., OH. HAMMOND: Precious Perkins, Sr., MH. CLARK: Alexis Christian, So., MH; Krysta Syler, Sr., OH; Tique Woods, Sr., MH. GAVIT: Amber Earl, Jr., S; Vanessa Skierkiewicz, Sr. OH.
Fast facts: Griffith has won back-to-back sectional titles. The Panthers split a season series with Gavit, which last won a sectional crown in 2010. … Hammond High is the only team in the sectional to have never won a title in volleyball.
Calumet vs. Hanover Central, 7 p.m.
Knox vs. Wheeler, 6 p.m.
Andrean vs. Kankakee Valley, 7:30 p.m.
New Prairie vs. Calumet-Hanover Central winner, 11 a.m.
Knox-Wheeler winner vs. Andrean-Kankakee Valley winner, 12:30 p.m.
Championship, 7 p.m.
Defending champion: Andrean.
Favorite: New Prairie. Darkhorse: Andrean.
Advancement: Winner plays at the winner of the Clark Sectional in the regional Oct. 29.
Players to watch: ANDREAN: Kellie Wojciechowski, Sr., OH; Lauren Stazinski, Sr., MH; Marija Nicksic, Sr., OH. HANOVER CENTRAL: Kristen Roper, Sr., OH; Savanna Zakman, Jr., S; Samantha Guglielmo, Fr., S. KANKAKEE VALLEY: Gabby Martin, Sr., OH; Lauren Stokes, Sr., S; Danielle Ruesken, Sr., MH. WHEELER: Allie Stevenson, Jr., L; Belle Bravo, So., S; Jordynn Park, So., MH.
Fast facts: New Prairie is the No. 3-ranked team in the state. … Andrean has won back-to-back sectional titles, and has eight since 2001.
Boone Grove Sectional
Whiting vs. Lake Station, 6 p.m.
River Forest vs. Boone Grove, 6 p.m.
Bowman Academy vs. Bishop Noll, 7:30 p.m.
Hebron vs. Whiting-Lake Station winner, 11 a.m.
River Forest-Boone Grove winner vs. Bowman Academy-Bishop Noll winner, 12:30 p.m.
Championship, 5 p.m.
Defending champion: None in this field.
Favorite: Bishop Noll. Darkhorse: Whiting.
Advancement: Winner hosts the winner of the North Jusdson Sectional in the regional Oct. 29.
Players to watch: BOONE GROVE: Nicole Malouhos, Sr., MH; Sky Hall, Sr., OH; BOWMAN ACADEMY: Ericka Wesley, Damia Anderson, Ki'Aujanee Graddick. BISHOP NOLL: Carly Cappello, Jr., OH; Asya Hobbs, Sr., MH; Carissa Jones, Sr., OH; Brittany Anderson, Fr., S. HEBRON: Natalie Kaczmarski, Sr., S; Lauren Carlson, Sr., MH; LAKE STATION: Joanna Dwyer, Tristen Majka, Arianna Thomas. RIVER FOREST: Alexis Nuzzo, Jr., L; Caylyn Beller, Sr., MH; Colleen Cary, DS. WHITING: Kaylyn Anderson, Sr., OH; Bri Blackwell, Sr., OH; Mollie Lovasko, Sr., L; Courtney Blackwell, Fr., S.
Fast facts: Wheeler, which won this sectional last season, moved up a class after last season. … Bishop Noll last won a sectional title in 2007, breaking a string of five straight by Wheeler. … Whiting's last sectional win was also 2007, when the Oilers were a Class A team.
North Judson Sectional
Winamac vs. North Judson, 5:30 p.m.
Delphi vs. Rensselaer, 11 a.m.
North Newton vs. Winamac-North Judson winner, 12:30 p.m.
Championship, 5:30 p.m.
Defending champion: None in this field.
Favorite: Winamac. Darkhorse: Rensselaer.
Advancement: Winner plays at the winner of the Boone Grove Sectional in the regional Oct. 29.
Players to watch: NORTH NEWTON: Bethany Boeber, So., S; Morgan Goddard, Fr., DS; Monica Drinski. RENSSELAER: Maddie Gehring, So.; Aimee Mattocks, Sr.; Jordyn Spangler, So.
Fast fact: Defending champion Rochester moved up a class into 3A.
Marquette Catholic Sectional
Westville vs. Kouts, 5:30 p.m.
Washington Township vs. Morgan Township, 5:30 p.m.
Marquette Catholic vs. Covenant Christian, 7 p.m.
21st Century vs. Westville-Kouts winner, 11 a.m.
Washington Twp-Morgan Twp. winner vs. Marquette Catholic-Covenant Christian winner, 12:30 p.m.
Championship, 7 p.m.
Defending champion: Washington Township.
Favorite: Washington Township. Darkhorse: Marquette Catholic.
Advancement: Winner hosts the winner of the Pioneer Sectional in the regional Oct. 29.
Players to watch: COVENANT CHRISTIAN: Megan Buiter, Sr., OH; Callie Beezhold, Sr., MH; Courtney Kalma, Sr., S; Jennifer Heerema, Jr. KOUTS: Ivette Muzquiz, Sr., OH; Jayla Crump, Jr., MB; MARQUETTE CATHOLIC: Zoya Ganz, Jr., OH; Sabrina Brown, Sr., MH; MORGAN TOWNSHIP: Alexa Kartje, Jr., L; Courtney Maxwell, Jr., OH; WASHINGTON TOWNSHIP: Maddie Johnson, Sr., OH; Emily Holcomb, Sr., L; WESTVILLE: Ashley McClintock, Sr., OH; Samanatha Albera, Sr., OH.
Fast facts: Washington Township is the defending champion of this sectional, but Marquette Catholic won the Sectional 51 title at Culver Community last season. The Blazers reached the semistate semifinal.
Argos vs. Triton, 5 p.m.
South Central vs. LaCrosse, 6:30 p.m.
Argos-Triton winner vs. South Central-LaCrosse winner, 5 p.m.
Culver Community vs. Oregon-Davis, 6:30 p.m.
Championship, 2 p.m.
Defending champion: None in this field.
Favorite: South Central. Darkhorse: Triton.
Advancement: Winner hosts the winner of the Fort Wayne Blackhawk Christian Sectional in the regional Oct. 29.
Players to watch: LACROSSE: Naomi Culver, Jr., S; Alissa Tucker, Jr., OH; SOUTH CENTRAL: Briana Satoski, Sr., MB/OH; Katelyn Tucker, Sr., MB.OH.
Fast facts: Defending champion Marquette Catholic was moved out of the sectional. ... South Central is looking for its first sectional title since 2010 while LaCrosse hasn't won a sectional crown since 1990.
-- Hillary Smith, Paul Oren
When Amber Earl was a freshman, her Gavit girls volleyball team needed a hitter. She had played middle hitter, at some point, in middle school, but her answer was: "Whatever you need, Coach."
When she was a sophomore, the Gladiators needed another setter to run their 6-2 offense, so though she liked being a hitter, her answer was: "Whatever you need, Coach."
Now that Gavit has changed to a 5-1 offense, and Earl is the only setter, her hitting numbers have definitely diminished.
"It's more of a matter of what my team needs," Earl said. "I'll do what I can to help us win. If we don't have someone there, I'll try my best to be that person."
The Gladiators enter the Class 3A Clark Sectional in an interesting predicament. It has been three seasons since Gavit last won a sectional title, and Griffith, the Glads' first-round opponent, is the defending champion.
In a regularly scheduled game, Griffith beat Gavit. In a tournament later this season, Gavit beat Griffith.
The stage is set for an upset one way or another.
For the Gladiators to earn their fourth sectional title since the start of the class era, the team will need players like Earl, and not just because she's the setter.
"I think a lot of her success has to do with attitude, she's always positive," coach Amy Osorio said. "During the 5-1, it can get very frustrating. She'll listen to every critique and she's always looking for who's on. She never gives anyone any attitude, she's always so positive."
Once she was designated as a setter, Earl continued to work on her setting skills in order to improve her team.
"Her setting touch has improved since last year, hands down that's been what's really consistent for us," Osorio said. "She's doing it all for me, and there are not too many setters who are willing to play middle and block the net. It's nice to have that sacrifice, because she can be one of our better hitters. But, obviously, she doesn't get the ball very often."
Despite Earl's desire to make a big block or key kill, she's all about the Glads.
"During the 6-2, I got to hit a lot more, and this year I'm setting all the way around, all the time," Earl said. "I like doing it, it's a lot of work, but it's something my team needed, so I'll do it full time."
WASHINGTON TWP. | Winning ugly counts the same as winning pretty when it comes to advancing in the Porter County Conference tournament.
Morgan Twp. and Boone Grove took different approaches to their victories on Thursday night, but both counted the same as the Cherokees and Wolves advanced with 3-0 sweeps and will meet in the semifinals on Saturday at Washington Township.
The Cherokees struggled in the first and third games, but were still able to deliver a 26-24, 25-15, 25-20 win over LaCrosse in the tournament opener.
“For some reason, we’ve struggled to put teams away all season,” Morgan Twp. coach Matt Bien said. “Thankfully, we were able to get the win (Thursday) and that’s all that matters as we move on to the next round.”
Alison Goetz led Morgan Township (16-10) with nine kills as the junior outside hitter was instrumental in keeping up the energy level as the stubborn Tigers (4-24) clawed their way through the first game.
“We had those first-game jitters and we know we can do better than that,” Goetz said. “Our team needs to stay positive and we were able to do that.”
The Cherokees now have the most victories in a season since 2000.
“That means a lot to us,” Goetz said. “We want to prove everyone wrong and show that our team can do anything out there. We’re excited to keep going.”
Nicole Malouhos had 14 kills to pace Boone Grove as the Wolves (16-7) came out quick against South Central and kept firing in a 25-18, 25-20, 25-21 victory. Boone Grove had lost to the Satellites (23-6) earlier in the season.
“It was important for us to come out and get the first game,” Boone Grove coach Linda Eleftheri said. “When we played them earlier, they won the first game and then the second before we got one from them. I thought we moved the ball from the back row and we were able to maintain our offense.”
Briana Satoski had 11 kills to lead the Satellites, while Kaitlyn Jackson added seven kills and seven digs.
“I don’t think we were ready to play (Thursday),” South Central coach Ashley Rinker said. “We have to talk about this because this has happened the last three matches. This needs to be addressed.”
The opening round of the tournament resumes tonight as Kouts takes on host Washington Township in the opener and PCC newcomer Westville battles Hebron in the nightcap.
MERRILLVILLE | Outdoor sports are often truncated, postponed or canceled by occurrences such as rain, snow or darkness.
Wednesday’s Northwest Crossroads Conference finale between Munster and Andrean was supposed to be played more than a month ago, but it was postponed.
The match wasn’t snowed or rained out. It was cooked out. Extreme September heat plus a lack of air conditioning at Andrean led to early dismissal and the postponement of all after-school events.
While the weather is much more temperate now, there have been at least a few fires boiling behind the scenes at Andrean.
Coach Julie Wiejak resigned Monday, and for one night the team didn’t have a coach, though players spent all night making signs and T-shirts supporting Wiejak. Tuesday they hosted Highland and found out only a few moments before the match that Wiejak was asked back by administrators. The Chicago resident didn’t make it to the match, but assistant Meagan Skinner led Andrean to an adrenaline-fueled sweep.
However, the home team was emotionally drained as conference rival and Times No. 3 Munster came in and swept the 59ers 25-18, 25-16, 25-17 to finish 12-0 in the NCC.
Andrean played without regular libero Marisa Beemsterboer, who was not at the game. Wiejak refused comment on Beemsterboer’s absence.
“We knew they were going to come back with a lot of energy (Wednesday) from all the drama with their coach and all that,” Munster senior hitter Elizabeth Kloos said. “We saw that they didn’t have their libero, and we already knew who their big hitters were and the angles they like to take.”
Kloos had 10 attack kills and three block kills, and Toni DalleCarbonare led the Mustangs with 11 kills and 13 digs. Blaire Barnett served up four aces and eight set assists.
Munster (28-4, 12-0) simply played its style and, after falling behind 5-0 in the opening set, controlled the short match throughout the night.
“I think we’re intimidating to other teams because we are Munster, and coming in undefeated and tough to play against,” Kloos said. “We have a lot of confidence going into the postseason. We beat all those teams and know we can again.”
Despite not practicing for 10 days, Times No. 4 Andrean (23-8, 9-3) was fired up with Wiejak back on the sidelines looking to put the recent past behind her. However, Munster refused to lose.
“We were fearless,” Munster coach Tracy Summers said. “Knowing that we have a target on our backs, it doesn’t bother us. We just go hard and keep doing what we do and getting better for sectionals.”
Andrean, which concludes the regular season today with senior night, is also looking forward to the postseason and, aside from uncertainty with Beemsterboer, persevering.
“My talk with the administration (Tuesday) was awesome,” Wiejak said. “I’m happy to be back. I’m pleased with the support they’re offering me, and that’s all I could ask for. I was showing up today to put it behind me.”
Matches and practices called on account of brewing tumult had the Niners off their routine. The seniors had Wednesday afternoon off as most of the rest of the school took the PSAT, and the absence of Beemsterboer forced other defensive specialists out of position and forced atypical lineups on the floor.
“My team was ready, and I saw so many of the adjustments we made to play Munster,” Wiejak said. “I think they kept floating in and out of an emotional state where they’ve been through a lot this week and they’re just trying to deal with that, and it causes a loss of focus.
“I’m really proud of them. … I asked them to their best, and if right now that’s what their best is, I can’t fault them for that because this week has been emotional.”
HEBRON | Kelly Dickensheets isn’t sure sometimes if she’s stepped into a time machine when she arrives at practice with the Hebron girls volleyball team.
Taking one look around the court, Dickensheets sees the faces of old, hears the voices of teams gone by, and even recognizes the mannerisms of players who haven’t worn the Hebron uniform in 30 years.
Counting the boys volleyball team, Dickensheets has coached 10 players this season that are children of players she also coached while at Hebron. The similarities between the generations are striking.
“You better believe I see their parents in them when they’re on the court,” Dickensheets said. “A couple of the girls are not as confident as their moms, but I try not to make comparisons.”
Dickensheets took over the Hawks in 1979 after the former coach left due to a pregnancy. Still a bit green at 23, Dickensheets was frustrated that her players would often look to the stands at the former coach during games. After offering to resign if the players wanted the old coach back, Dickensheets gained the confidence of the team and led the Hawks to the sectional championship.
“I ended up winning that sectional and I was told that winning just saved my job,” Dickensheets said.
One of the players on that first team was Sharon (DeYoung) McKay. Thirty-five years later, McKay and Dickensheets are best friends and McKay’s two daughters, Sasha and Taylor Pass, are on this season’s team. Dickensheets sees much of McKay in the two players, but still isn’t afraid to coach those sitting in the stands after all these years.
“It doesn’t matter if I coached your mom or dad or if you’re a school board member,” Dickensheets said. “Sharon is as close to a best friend as I’ve got and if I have to bench her kids, I’ll do it. I want my players to play and start, not because their dad or mom started for me.”
The similarities are endless between the generations as Hebron’s top player this year, setter Natalie Kaczmarski, is the daughter of Julie Fisher. Kaczmarski is Hebon’s nominee for the Porter County Conference Mental Attitude Award this year, an award her mother won in 1983.
As tradition through the family generations is important to Hebron volleyball, so is winning the PCC tournament. Dickensheets, who plans on returning next season, can ballpark the years that the Hawks have won sectional and regional titles, but she has pinpoint accuracy when talking about the PCC tournament.
“It’s huge, no question,” Dickensheets said. “It’s what the season is in this conference. We don’t have the best record and we’re probably among the least favorite of any team (to win), but I love this group of girls. We can play loose and we don’t have any pressure.”
At Washington Twp.
Game 1 -- LaCrosse vs. Morgan Twp., 5 p.m.
Game 2 -- South Central vs. Boone Grove, 6:30 p.m.
Game 3 -- Kouts vs. Washington Twp., 5 p.m.
Game 4 -- Westville vs. Hebron, 6:30 p.m.
Game 5 -- Game 1 winner vs. Game 2 winner, 4 p.m.
Game 6 -- Game 3 winner vs. Game 4 winner, 5:30 p.m.
Game 7 -- Championship, 7:30 p.m.
Favorite: Washington Township. Darkhorse: Westville.
Players to watch: BOONE GROVE -- Nicole Malouhos, Sr., MH; Sky Hall, Sr., OH/DS. HEBRON -- Natalie Kaczmarski, Sr., S; Lauren Carlson, Sr., MH. KOUTS -- Ivette Muzquiz, Sr., OH; Jayla Crump, Jr., MB. LACROSSE -- Naomi Culver, Jr., S; Alissa Tucker, Jr., OH. MORGAN TWP. -- Alexa Kartje, Jr., L; Courtney Maxwell, Jr., OH. SOUTH CENTRAL -- Briana Satoski, Sr., MB/OH; Katelyn Tucker, Sr., MB/OH. WASHINGTON TWP. -- Maddie Johnson, Sr., OH; Emily Holcomb, Sr., L. WESTVILLE -- Ashley McClintock, Sr., OH; Samantha Albers, Sr., OH.
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