The underdog is the most dangerous opponent.
That was Carroll’s philosophy coming into the Snider Volleyball Sectional championship Saturday, and the host Panthers gave it affirmation.
Though the Chargers walked away with a 3-0 win on the night, it meant overcoming a contested second set that nearly swung the momentum — much the same way it did in 2017 when the Panthers managed to score a point on Carroll in the championship to keep alive hopes of ending the Charger streak.
“Snider is good. Andrew, their coach, gets them going, and they have girls that can play. They had nothing to lose, and those are the teams that are the scariest. I think that’s going to be us next week going into regionals,” Carroll Head Coach Holly Miller said.
The second set Saturday began with a 4-0 run for the Panthers, followed by six unanswered points from the Chargers. Snider held onto a manageable deficit, preventing the Chargers from leading by more than four and eventually putting up an offensive assault with strong hitting and blocking by seniors Zoe Wilson and Mariah Milledge and junior Niesha Anderson for a 6-0 run to take a 2-point lead. Three more lead changes later, the Chargers answered another 4-point Panther run with three straight scores of their own with Snider just a point away from claiming the set. The Chargers pulled off a 28-26 win with their final two points coming from a block by senior Gabby Fish and the final kill by junior Kaley Matney.
That came after a first set in which Carroll started off on a 5-0 head start and prevented the Panthers from scoring more than two consecutive points in a 25-9 win for the Chargers.
“We were serving tough,” Miller said. “I think we rattled them, and then he started pulling his starters out. I told our girls that’s just going to light a fire for them, and it did, but I’m proud of our girls for fighting and coming back, because that second set could have gone either way.”
The Panthers again scored the first point in the third set, but the Chargers were the ones stringing together runs, facilitating the one and only lead change and coming away with a 25-17 victory as senior Hadley Powers knocked down the final point of the night.
“They brought a good fight,” Carroll senior Taya Haffner said. “It was just about us having the energy to come back and fight with them, and we did, so that was something that we were really proud of. We had to come together as a team and do all the things we worked on in practice, just put it together and push through those last final points.”
It was an all-around team effort on the Carroll attack. Haffner assisted on 43 points while senior Gabby Fish earned a team-high 16 kills. Sophomore Ellie Frey pitched in 10 kills, and Haffner, Matney and Powers scored seven each. Frey, Haffner, Fish and Powers each scored a pair of aces on the night as well, and freshman Brenna Ginder had a team-high three.
On the defensive side, Ginder racked up 21 digs. Matney and sophomore Ella Etter had two blocks each.
“When one person’s not on, someone else steps up, and I think it helps that most of the starters have a year under their belts already,” Miller said. “And, there are some that are just gamers — they’re ready to play.”
Saturday’s win marked Carroll’s 12th straight sectional championship. The Chargers haven’t lost in the tournament since 2008.
“It means so much,” Haffner said. “We have such a strong program and we’re always fighting as a team together. It’s something we can’t do without talent coming up each year. We have girls now playing who are going to be here for a few more years, so that’s something that will just keep benefiting the program.”
Carroll (23-9) will face McCutcheon (20-7) in the Noblesville sectional Saturday.
“I’m glad we survived and we get another week to play,” Miller said. “Honestly, I didn’t know if we’d be playing this late in the year back in August, so I’m excited.”