By JEFF BARTLETT
It should’ve served as an omen — and not a good one — when one of Christian Academy’s key volleyball players went by the last name Rayzor.
The Warriors were steely sharp Tuesday night in Class A Regional at the DogHouse in Orleans, and they sliced up the Bulldogs, 25-11, 25-10, 25-5 to capture the first regional championship in school history.
“The girls did it, they made history,” said CAI head coach Walter Pauly. “It’s been four years in the making with this group, and they came out and played extremely well.”
The Bulldogs had battled their way to a pair of upsets over ranked teams Springs Valley and Trinity Lutheran to win their sectional, but they ran out of magic against a tall, talented group led by 6-foot-1 junior middle hitter Krista Boesing, who had a match-high 12 kills and three blocks, along with 6-1 freshman Sierra Rayzor (six aces and five kills), 5-10 senior Emily Haworth (10 aces and five kills) and 5-6 sophomore setter Alex Falcone (five aces and 24 assists).
“That is a very good volleyball team that has a lot of weapons,” said Orleans assistant coach Joe Chisham, who handles post-match press duties. “They could set left, right or middle with really no change, and their serving was extremely good. “They got us back on our heels and we were unable to attack.”
The Warriors, ranked No. 15 in the final Class A poll, were ready to roll from the outset as Rayzor’s first serve fell for an ace. The Bulldogs battled back with a tip kill from Linza Busick to tie it, 2-2, but Alex Lyons reeled off three straight service points off two kills and a block by Boesing.
Orleans had its best answer of the match as senior Bailey Gray got a kill to fall, then added a tip kill, and Boesing had a rare hitting miscue to cut it to 6-5.
The Bulldogs were barely hanging in the opener when Alex Falcone stepped to the service stripe and rattled the defense with low, touigh serves that helped Abby Falcone, Rayzor and Boesing to blast away up front as the lead soared to 17-7.
Haworth ended all doubt when she attacked Orleans with a jump serve that featured a toss that soared at least 15 feet into the air, then had a topspin action that caused it to dive. She had four consecutive aces to finish off Game 1.
“They had a lot of good servers, but I told [Orleans head coach] Mona [Roberts] that most serves that come over that high will go long, but hers bends and breaks almost straight down, and we didn’t handle it well.”
The Warriors were already in command of Set 2, 17-9, behind a big hitting start by Boesing when Alex Lyons took serve and cranked out eight consecutive points as the Orleans passing continued to struggle and Boesing took advantage for three kills to make it a 2-0 lead.
Christian Academy carried the momentum into the third game as Rayzor reeled off a 6-0 start, including three aces. Busick finally halted the run with a kill, but a hitting error handed serve to Haworth, and the Bulldogs could not contend with the jump serve as she belted five aces during an eight-point spree that made it 15-2.
“We have some tough servers and it’s a been a big turning point in our season since the Silver Creek win,” Pauly said. “We didn’t know what to expect from Orleans because they had beaten a couple of tough teams to win their sectional. “But our serving and hitting put a lot of pressure on them and our kids just played well.”
Gray wound up 15 for 17 hitting with five kills, senior Shelby Noble had seven assists, Taylor Wheeler added eight digs and four kills, and junior Sydney Stevenson added six kills for Orleans, which finished 22-11.
“We had a great season and have nothing to be ashamed of,” Chisham said. “We’ll miss our three seniors, but we have 17 kids back off the varsity and JV, so things are looking good for next season.”
Lyons added five aces and four digs and Clara Koch had four digs for CAI (27-6), which advances to Saturday’s Loogootee Semistate to play the winner of the regional match between Hauser and No.3 Indianapolis Lutheran at 11 a.m.
“We’re in uncharted territory,” Pauly said. “But I went over last year to Loogootee just to watch and get a feel for it, and it’s good that we’ll be playing in a gym just about like this one. “I know [second-ranked] Barr-Reeve beat Loogootee and will be very tough, and obviously there will be other good teams there, but we’ve played a very tough schedule.
“We played a tournament at Kokomo to start the season, and we played Seymour, and yes some of them smacked us around pretty good, but it has helped us get ready for this tournament.”