GRIFFITH | In each of the first two times that the Griffith volleyball team met Gavit in the regular season, the Gladiators found an answer for Panthers top hitter Lisette Roldan.
Frustrated, Roldan had to learn a way to avoid the Gavit block.
"The first two times, they did a really good job shutting me down," the junior outside hitter said. "I had to be smarter with the way I hit and my placement of the ball."
When Griffith met Gavit in Saturday's sectional semifinal, the adjustment worked. The Panthers dispatched with the Gladiators in four sets and won the championship by beating Hammond in three sets.
For the second consecutive year, Griffith will meet Andrean in today's single-match regional. The 59ers didn't lose to the Panthers in the regular season.
"Lisette has been working very hard on adjusting to the big block," first-year coach Erin Delaney said, "not just being a powerful hitter, but where to put the ball. That's a great role that Lisette has grown into and she's very good in that role."
Roldan has been forced to adapt several times this season. Losing 6-foot tall middle hitter Kelsey Bonewits to graduation, the Panthers were suddenly much smaller up front. The offense was set to run through Roldan, who played a smaller role as a second option last season.
"Last year I was not as vocal as I am this year," Roldan said. "I was an underclassmen, I was a helper to my seniors who were the team, we graduated five of them. Kelsey was a big hitter and I was the second person there to help out. This year I took on a big role in leadership and worked for the team and took more sets."
Then, the Panthers (12-20) started losing setters to concussions. They worked in the preseason with a setter lost in the first couple weeks. Before the postseason, the back-up was lost to another concussion.
So JV setter Rhiannon Kozy was brought in to work the end of the season and the sectional.
"The girls have done a really good job of adjusting, when you lose girls in practice and in the game, sometimes it's difficult," Delaney said.
"Everyone does such a good job adjusting," Roldan said. "Even though its hard to work with a new setter, we have to do it as quickly has possible."
The Panthers expect to return senior setter Sierra Kroslack in time for today's regional.
Griffith has Roldan for another season. In the last year, she said she's worked to improve her serve-receive and ball placement, making it easier for her to be a top option for the Panthers.
"I feel more powerful when I hit," Roldan said. "As far as leadership and teamwork, I feel more vocal and more comfortable taking on the role."