By KEVIN HARRIS
NEW ALBANY —
For the first three sets, the Christian Academy volleyball team held its own against defending Class A state runner-up Trinity Lutheran on Tuesday night in the Class A regional.
But the Class A No. 4 Cougars won two of those three sets and ran away with the fourth set to win their third consecutive regional title at Christian Academy, 27-25, 19-25, 25-21, 25-11. Trinity Lutheran (32-4) will play either No. 2 Indianapolis Lutheran or No. 8 Hauser in the first semifinal of the Class A Loogootee Semi-state on Saturday.
“That’s a very, very good opponent. I think they’ll go far,” Warriors’ coach Walter Pauly said about Trinity Lutheran. “We weren’t mentally tough like last Saturday [in the Class A Christian Academy Sectional final]. I think our youth came into play tonight.”
The Warriors (24-6) nearly pulled out the first set. After the Cougars built a 16-12 lead, Christian Academy battled back to take a 23-22 advantage on a kill by Krista Boesing.
After a service ace by Ezra Staggers to keep the Warriors ahead by one point at 25-24, Trinity Lutheran scored three points in a row to prevail in set one.
“The girls have a lot of fight in them. The girls hit their spots when they needed to,” Cougars’ coach Chelsey Hackman said.
The Warriors showed some fight in the second set. Trailing 18-17 late in the set, Christian Academy made an 8-1 run to come out on top and tie the match at one set apiece.
But Trinity Lutheran answered in the third set. The Cougars broke an 11-11 deadlock with five unanswered points to go up five. Christian Academy rallied to pull within one at 22-21, but Trinity Lutheran held off the Warriors’ charge with three straight points to capture the set.
“I think we were feeling good and we thought we were going to pull this out,” Pauly said about claiming set two. “But in the third game, we didn’t pass well. Again, I thought it boiled down to our youth.”
The Cougars took full control of the fourth set right from the outset. They led 10-3 early and then proceeded to extend the advantage to 20-9. Trinity Lutheran secured the match with four consecutive points.
Senior middle hitter Sarah Stuckwisch paced the Cougars with 14 kills and five blocks. Teammate Mallory Barker spiked 13 kills.
Hackman expected a tougher match with the Warriors in the regional after Trinity Lutheran defeated them in the regular season at Christian Academy, 25-19, 25-22, 25-16. Plus the crowd was much louder than the previous meeting on Tuesday.
“I knew they didn’t play that well in the first match, but they got some good hitters. We expected it to be more intense this time,” Hackman said. “It was loud in here and it was intense.”
Junior Emily Haworth was Christian Academy’s top hitter with 12 kills, while the Boesing sisters — Rachel and Krista — each added nine. Rachel Boesing made four blocks, while Krista Boesing had three.
Haworth also led the Warriors on defense with 10 digs and in serving with three aces. Staggers and teammate Brooklyn Garrison each had three aces. Christian Academy freshman setter Alex Falcone dished out 28 assists.
Despite falling in the regional, Pauly said his players have nothing to be ashamed of from the 2012 season. The Warriors’ main accomplishment was winning their first sectional title since 2004 when the school was called Graceland Christian.
“We need to relish in the fact that we had a great season,” Pauly said. “We don’t want this match to define our team this season. We were sectional champions.”
Christian Academy says goodbye to five seniors in Rachel Boesing, Meghan Curry, Michaela Roberts, Alex Dale and Nicole Kauchak.
CLASS A REGIONAL
TRINITY LUTHERAN 27 19 25 25
CHRISTIAN ACADEMY 25 25 21 11
Aces — Trinity Lutheran: Sarah Stuckwisch 1; Christian Academy: Brooklyn Garrison 3, Ezra Staggers 3, Emily Haworth 3.
Assists — Christian Academy: Alex Falcone 28.
Blocks — Trinity Lutheran: Stuckwisch 5; Christian Academy: Rachel Boesing 4.
Digs — Christian Academy: Haworth 10.
Kills — Trinity Lutheran: Stuckwisch 14; Christian Academy: Haworth 12.