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.