By GREG MENGELT
FLOYDS KNOBS —
Floyd Central rallied from a set down to win its first regional championship in four years with a 21-25, 25-15, 25-16, 25-21 triumph over Castle in Tuesday’s one-game Class 4A regional at Floyd Central.
After dropping the first set, Floyd Central controlled the Knights over the final three sets to advance to Saturday’s Class 4A Seymour Semistate.
“It feels great,” senior Sydney Engle said. “After four years, it’s nice to know we could get this far and go much farther.”
The 29-8 and sixth-ranked Highlanders (29-8) will face No. 2 Avon (34-3) in Saturday’s second semifinal, following No. 10 Columbus East (25-12) against No. 17 Indianapolis Chatard (23-13) at 11 a.m. The two semifinal winners will meet at 7 p.m. Saturday for a berth in the state championship.
“We played all four of them and [all of the matches] were very close,” Floyd Central coach Bart Powell said. “I think we’re a better team than we were at that point. We defintely have a chance.”
“We want to win the whole thing,” junior setter Remi Bowman said. “They are really good teams, but they’re definitely teams we can beat if we play with our whole ability.”
Early in Tuesday’s match, it wasn’t apparent the Highlanders could even play with the Knights. After Floyd led 8-6 early, Castle junior Rebecca Nunge led the Knights on a 13-5 run for a 19-13 lead.
The Highlanders cut the deficit to 22-21 before Nunge’s two kills and one block put Floyd away.
Powell said from the outset his team may have still been celebrating last week’s five-set victory over No. 7 Seymour a little.
“We beat [Castle] earlier and I still think we were halfway still having the Seymour game on our minds,” Powell said. “We knew we had to pick it up.”
“We just decided we needed to start playing more together,” Bowman said. “We weren’t playing like ourselves.”
Engle made sure it wouldn’t happen again. In the second set, the senior had six blocks and three kills as the Highlanders jumped out to a 14-3 lead.
“I definitely wanted to take the team on my shoulders,” Engle said. “I wasn’t going to give up easily, especially after winning the sectional [on Saturday].”
The closest Castle would get in the second set was 22-14. A Knight error and another Engle kill made it 24-14 before Tierney Flaherty closed out the set with a kill.
Engle finished the match with 17 kills, 18 digs and three assists.
“She’s definitely a different player than she was at the beginning of the year,” Powell said of Engle. “She definitely led us tonight.”
“She was on fire,” said Bowman, who had 39 assists, eight kills and six digs in the win. “No one was stopping her, so I kept giving her the ball.”
The Highlanders jumped on Castle again in the third set. Castle coach Dan Watson was forced to call timeouts at 6-2 and 10-4. Although the Knights closed the gap to 21-13, two blocks and a kill from Lauren Koopman shut the door on the Knights.
“It was definitely important to keep the momentum,” Engle said. “Whoever won the third set was going to win the match. It was very important that we got off to an early lead in the third to give ourselves a cushion and confidence for the rest of the match.”
The fourth set was the most competitive of the night. Neither team led by more than two points until a Castle error gave the Highlanders a 16-13 lead. However, the Knights scored four of the next five points to tie the set at 17-17.
After Floyd scored three in a row and led 20-17, Castle scored three straight to tie it again at 20-apiece.
This time, the Highlanders put the Knights away with a 5-1 run, led by three Engle kills, to clinch the program’s sixth regional crown.
“I always felt like we were in control of the set,” Bowman admitted. “There was never a point when there was any doubt in our heads.”
“It was kind of like the Seymour match,” Powell said. “We let them hang around rather than bury them, and [Castle] did a really nice job. We had to try to hang on to the momentum — somehow, some way.”
Despite being the favorites coming in, Floyd left with a healthy respect for the young, 30-7 Knights, who are still without a regional title since 1995.
“It’s crazy,” Bowman said. “Castle is a great team. Every time we play them, we know it’s going to be a good match.”
CLASS 4A REGIONAL
At Floyd Central
FLOYD CENTRAL 3, CASTLE 1
Castle 25 15 16 21
Floyd Central 21 25 25 25
Castle: Rebecca Nunge 14 kills, 7 assists, 6 blocks, 2 aces; Marissa Zirkelbach 14 assists; Katherine Stephens 2 kills, 4 block; Madison Snyder 5 kills, 1 blocks, 1 assist; Allison Stieler 1 ace; Justine Blanke 1 kills, 1 assist; Courtney Seitz 2 kills, 2 aces, 1 block; Elizabeth Clark 3 kills.
Floyd Central: Sydney Engle 17 kills, 18 digs, 3 assists; Remi Bowman 39 assists, 8 kills, 6 digs, 1 ace; Gwynn Jones 12 kills, 4 digs; Kayli Dempster 8 digs, 1 ace; Brooke Hinton 16 digs, 4 assists, 1 kill, 1 ace; Lauren Koopman 5 assists, 5 digs, 2 kills; Mikaila Humphrey 9 kills, 1 dig.