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.