SELLERSBURG — Christian Academy was pushed, but the Warriors were up to the challenge in a 26-24, 22-25, 25-16, 25-20 win over Corydon Central in the first round of the Class 3A Silver Creek Sectional on Tuesday night.
“Anything can happen in the postseason,” first-year CAI coach Chrissy Millen said. “They’re a good team, they pushed us."
In the first set, senior outside hitter Kendall Kerberg and senior setter Halle Rankin had two kills each as the Warriors built an 8-4 lead. The Panthers fought back to tie it at 9-all before the Warriors went on a run. A kill by Rankin and an ace by sophomore middle hitter Chloe Wiseheart were part of a 5-0 surge to help CAI to a 14-9 lead.
Corydon hung around, using an 8-3 run to tie it at 17. The Warriors got some breathing room after a kill by junior middle hitter Jolie Miles gave Christian Academy a 20-17 lead. After that, Rankin had a pair of kills to help the Warriors stay on top, 22-20.
CAI had a pair of miscues to help Corydon to a 23-22 lead, then years of experience paid off for the Warriors, who have won seven straight sectional titles.
A kill by Kerberg and an ace by Rankin made it 24-23. It was tied at 24 before a kill by Kerberg and a block by Miles and junior setter Adeline Baldwin gave CAI a two-point triumph in the first set.
“We’ve been on the floor in big games,” said Kerberg, adding that she told her younger teammates not to “get overwhelmed by the moment.”
The Warriors fell behind 7-2 to start the second set and were in come-from-behind mode. A kill by Wiseheart made it 7-5 and the Warriors were within striking distance after that.
Corydon was able to stay in control and led 11-7 before CAI surged. A pair of kills by Kerberg, and a pair of aces by Rankin, pulled Christian Academy to within 12-11.
Corydon didn’t fold and the Panthers wouldn’t relinquish the lead. Down two, CAI got a kill by Rankin and an ace by Miles to tie it at 16. Another Rankin kill gave the Warriors their first lead of the second set.
Corydon answered with a 4-0 run and led 20-17. A kill by junior outside hitter Mollie Hoagland pulled the Warriors to within one, 21-20, but that was as close as they'd get.
Christian Academy looked to bounce back with a fast start in the third set and the Warriors did just that. A kill by Kerberg made it 8-3 on the way to a 12-4 lead.
Corydon fought back to within 13-9 before Christian Academy answered. An ace by Wiseheart helped the Warriors to a 16-9 lead and a kill by Kerberg put Christian Academy on top 18-12.
A kill by Miles made it 20-14 and Rankin followed that with a kill for a 21-15 lead. Kerberg iced it with a kill to give Christian Academy a 2-1 lead.
Fighting for their season, the Panthers scored the first three points of the fourth set. CAI, however, was able to match Corydon’s intensity. An ace by Baldwin helped the Warriors to a 6-5 lead.
It was 7-all when a kill by Rankin and two kills by Kerberg sparked the Warriors. CAI continued to surge. Kills by Baldwin and Rankin, and an ace by Kerberg, pushed the Warriors to a 17-10 lead.
“I knew I had to step up,” said Rankin, who finished with 20 kills, 18 assists and four aces.
Corydon continued to hang around and cut it to 22-19 late. That’s when Kerberg stepped up with two kills – including the match-winner.
“Right now we’re still fighting,” she said.
CAI (16-9) will face Salem (19-7) at 11 a.m. Saturday in the first sectional semifinal. The Lions rallied for a 3-2 win over Scottsburg in Tuesday's first first-round match.
First-round action continues Thursday, when Charlestown takes on North Harrison at 6 p.m., followed by Silver Creek against Madison.