By Chris Reed
ALBION — It wasn’t easy, nor was it always pretty, in fact it was ugly at times. But Prairie Heights fought through it all en route to the school’s first volleyball title since 2011, defeating Churubusco in straight sets, 27-25, 25-19, 25-20, in the Class 2A Central Noble Sectional championship game Saturday.
Sierra Riehl led the Panthers with 14 kills and four blocks in the win. DeTro dished out 25 assists, Grace Levitz recorded five aces while Fish tallied 18 digs.
Heights advanced to play in the LaVille Regional Saturday, where the Panthers will take on Boone Grove at 12:30 p.m.
The Panthers jumped out to large leads in all three sets, only to see Churubusco erase the deficits. In the first, Heights came out on a 6-1 run, led by an ace from DeTro and a block from Riehl, before the Eagles, led by kills from junior Brooke Nondorf tied the set at seven.
The teams battled, neither squad leading by more than five from that point on.
A block from Churubusco’s Bekah Huelsenbeck put her team up 23-18 late, ending a run that capitalized on numerous Panther errors, before Heights tied the set at 24. Two Churubusco hitting errors, as well as a kill from Riehl, propelled Heights to the win.
The Eagle comeback was even greater the next time. Churubusco overcame an 11-1 Panther advantage to tie the second set at 18.
Mallory Sphar led the Eagle surge this time around. The freshman recorded four kills in the run.
“What happened was when we took Sierra out, we didn’t have anyone else that gave us that consistent offensive presence,” Sailor said. “That’s something we’ve been working on all season. I think that this group can go far, but to do that we need more than just one solid hitter.”
Heights outscored Churubusco 7-1 to end the set.
In the decisive third period, Heights earned an early 8-3 edge over the Eagles. Churubusco fought back to an 18-19 score, but the Panthers proved too much, getting the three-set sweep.
Now, with regional on deck, Sailor insisted that it doesn’t matter what teams are ahead in her team’s future. All that matters is her team.
“We just need to focus on ourselves and bettering ourselves,” Sailor said. “If we can do that, then I think this team can do anything.”
Earlier in the day, Heights defeated Central Noble in three sets during the sectional semifinal contest, while Churubusco swept LaVille.
The Panthers fought through three tough sets, 25-19, 25-23, 25-22, to send the Cougars home early, while the Eagles toppled the Lancers by a 25-17, 25-23, 25-21 score.
In other area games:
Fairfield 3, West Noble 2
West Noble fell in a hard-fought match against its Northeast Corner Conference rival, with the Falcons winning by a 31-29, 25-14, 22-25, 7-25, 19-17 score during a sectional semifinal contest at NorthWood.
Junior Madison Schermerhorn tallied 30 kills in the match, with Tori Miller adding 14. Miller also added six aces. Lauren Burns totaled 22 digs and three aces while Kristina Teel dished out 48 assists.