By RJ Walters / For the Jackson Citizen Patriot
MARSHALL — It took beating an underdog that almost transformed itself into Cinderella, but the Columbia Central High School volleyball team earned its school-record 31st win and first district title since 2005 Saturday night.
Downing a pesky Western Panthers team 21-25, 25-22, 25-15, 24-26, 15-12 at Marshall High School, the Eagles triumphed in a classic contest that came down to grit and determination.
Columbia Central (31-8-5) advances to the Class B regional semifinal on Tuesday at Lumen Christi.
The Golden Eagles will play Tecumseh in the second match of a doubleheader.
“They are all heart, all heart. Every once in a while, I just have to remind them to play with courage and confidence — that was our motto (Saturday night), instead of fear and anxiety,” Columbia Central coach Patty Vandeventer said about her girls. “The school record for wins is really important … and earlier (Saturday), we had a light-hearted fun practice, looking at some video and focused on the memories that we have created.”
Lindsay Hardcastle and MacKenzie Jordon presented trouble for the smaller Panthers, but it was unexpected production from Denton Votzke up front that pushed the Eagles over the top.
Hardcastle had 29 kills, while Jordon added 18. Votzke had five blocks.
“From Denton, that was the best blocking and hitting I’ve seen all year, so for her to step up and play that big in this sort of game was huge,” Vandeventer said.
It was a harrowing end to the Panthers season, after entering district play 13-15-17, only to beat Northwest and Lumen Christi.
Western climbed out of a four-point hole to win a nail-biter in the fourth-set, but it couldn’t hold on to a 9-6 lead in the deciding game.
“I think they were a quality team, and we can’t hang our heads, because we both played hard, and we left it all out on the floor,” Western coach Chris Polich said. “We got beat. We didn’t beat ourselves.”
Joelle Scholten kept her team in the game with 36 kills and 17 digs. Megan Repasy tallied 47 assists.