CORYDON — After a slow start, Silver Creek gave No. 1 Evansville Memorial all it could handle — for awhile.
The top-ranked Tigers, though, got the key points when they needed them and downed the Dragons 25-8, 25-20, 26-24 in the Class 3A Corydon Central Regional final Saturday night.
“I can’t ask for anything else. The kids competed against the No. 1 team in the state. We gave ourselves a chance, we just weren’t able to finish,” Silver Creek coach Jeff Zimmerman said.
The Dragons swept Memorial 25-19, 25-13, 25-19 to win their second straight regional title last year. Saturday night the Tigers (31-1) returned the favor, winning their 22nd consecutive match and recording their 27th sweep of the season.
“They’re a lot better in person than they were on film, for sure,” said Zimmerman, whose team advanced to the final with a 25-17, 25-17, 25-14 sweep of Lawrenceburg in Saturday's first semifinal.
Memorial looked the part in the first set, rolling to a 17-point victory.
The second set was back-and-forth before the Tigers edged ahead about midway through and stayed there.
“The first set we kind of came out a little flat,” Zimmerman said. “But with five seniors on the team nobody wants it to be their last match and everybody got out there and worked their butts off. Macie [Garrison], I think she broke her finger in the second set. Bella [Hinton]’s playing with broken fingers. We had a whole lot going on.”
In the third set the Dragons jumped out to a 6-0 lead, increased their advantage to 14-3 and were ahead 20-10 late.
“I think they were just fired up,” Zimmerman said. “We had a little momentum going — Bella got a couple of aces, I think we had a block in that mix too, and we started believing. But then they put a little pressure back on us and hit some bombs against us and got back in the match."
Indeed, the Tigers reeled off 11 of the next 12 points to tie it at 21. It was knotted up again at 22, 23 and 24 before a kill by senior Tatum Tornatta put Memorial on top for good. Moments later the match ended when the Dragons failed to get the ball back over the net in three hits.
The 5-foot-11 Tornatta, who has committed to Southern Illinois University, finished with a match-high 18 kills. Six-foot outside hitter Emily Weinzapfel added 13 kills for the Tigers.
“They had a little more firepower than we had,” Zimmerman said. “They had some bangers out there that could terminate when they needed to and we got in some trouble. I felt like our defense was good, we passed well, we just got in some trouble getting some sideouts — we got behind the eight-ball a little bit.”
“There was so much energy and life [to start the third set], that’s how we wanted ourselves to play the entire match,” Garrison, Silver Creek's senior setter, added. “They just got a few too many runs on us and we let it slip [away]. But I’m so, so proud of how our team played today. ... We came out a little rough, but we found the heart throughout that [third] game and really fought for each other towards the end. Evansville Memorial’s a great team, they played really well too. We fought and gave it everything that we had.”
Hinton, a junior outside hitter, paced the Dragons (22-13) with 15 kills while Garrison, in another all-around performance that typified her career, tallied 22 assists, eight digs and three kills.
"Going into the season, I’m not going to lie, I was a little worried," said Garrison, who along with Hinton was one of the team's two returning starters. "But right out of the gate there was energy and life and fight and fire. Everyone on that court today wanted to get back to where we were last year and wanted to go farther. I could not be more proud of this team. Even though we lost the six seniors that were key players on the team [last year], everybody took it upon themselves to step up and play for each other."
The loss marked the final match for Garrison and Creek’s four other seniors — Abby Tandy, Faith Weitzel, Alexis Striegel and Reagan Wickens.
“I’ve been doing this since ‘95, that’s what 24 years, and I’ve never had a player like [Macie], and I’ve had some great players. She’s the real deal. Jacksonville State [University] is lucky, that’s for sure,” Zimmerman said. “You never replace a kid like Macie Garrison. Our other four seniors were kind of role players. It’s tough to be a senior and be a role player, but those kids knocked it out of the park. They all accepted their roles and never complained. It was a great season, a fun season.
“We had the third-toughest schedule in 3A. We lost some very close matches, we played with a bunch of kids that are injured, a bunch of kids that didn’t have a lot of varsity experience. We feel like the cupboard is still full and we feel like we’ll be back next year ready to go.”