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TC volleyball captures program's 4th sectional title

There was a sense of both relief and joy as Ray Basile spoke at the conclusion of Saturday’s volleyball sectional championship at Covenant Christian.

Relief that his Triton Central team was still playing despite the ever-present threat of COVID-19 shutting the entire season down.

Joy in the fact the Tigers were moving on after sweeping past Indianapolis Scecina to win the program’s fourth sectional title and second in the past three years.

“Just happy to still be playing,” the Tigers’ coach said. “There was some real question at the beginning of the season that we were even going to get to our first match let alone get to this point. I’m ecstatic for the team, ecstatic for the seniors, that they’ve accomplished (this) as a group, as a team.”

Triton Central (25-3) may have played the minimum three games in the final, but the Crusaders made sure the Tigers earned the title.

When the final point dropped, securing a 25-21, 25-23, 27-25 win, players on the bench rushed the court to celebrate with their teammates.

Scecina stayed within five points in the first game and pulled to within two at 22-20 before Triton Central scored three of the final four points on two kills by senior Amelia Shaw. A tip at the net by Shaw secured the final point.

Scecina again kept it close in the second game.

After Triton Central scored six straight points for a 14-8 lead, Scecina scored 16 of the next 23 points to pull to within one at 23-22. The Tigers held the Crusaders off by trading the next three points.

The Tigers again led throughout the final game.

Tied at 15, the Tigers scored five of the next six points, including kills by Shaw, senior Brooklyn Schiffli and sophomore Maddy Brown, for a 20-16 lead.

But the Crusaders tied it up again at 24, setting up a tense conclusion.

Basile said with seven seniors and three juniors, his team’s experience and leadership made the difference in holding off the Crusaders.

“They’ve been through it,” he said. “They didn’t buckle when things started getting tough. You could see it in their faces. They turned and talked to each other, ‘we’re okay,’ and it’s not one of them. It’s all of them saying the same thing. ‘We’re okay, we’re okay.’”

Relying on a freshman and several sophomores in the lineup, Lutheran’s youth played a factor.

“Sometimes with younger teams, they start getting hyper and their eyes get a little bigger and our guys came in just talked about what we needed to do, and they’d go back out and they did it,” Basile said.

A 1 hour, 15 minute film session earlier in the day helped the Tigers in their preparation.

Triton Central defeated Scecina earlier in the season and that film, along with film from another Scecina match, helped. Basile said his team knew what angles Scecina’s players liked to hit the ball and put themselves in the right position.

The Crusaders will be tough in the coming years, Basile said.

“For them to play that well in this kind of an environment against a group like this, seven seniors, that speaks a whole lot for them and where they’re going to be in the next couple of years,” he said. “I’ve been in that position before too. You can’t replicate experience.”

Shaw finished with 15 kills and senior Maddy Beaver had eight. Senior Emilee Bramlett and Maddy Beaver combined for nine of the team’s 13 blocks.

Junior Julia Sanders led the team with 31 digs with Schiffli finishing with 14, Shaw with 13 and senior Maggie Schweitzer with 11. Schweitzer also had 32 of the team’s 35 assists.

The Tigers advance to the regional to play Parke Heritage (24-6) at 10 a.m. Saturday at Heritage Christian. The winner of that match plays either Heritage Christian (30-3) or Union County (20-12) for the regional title at 7 p.m.

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