It was not an easy straight-set sweep for Central High School volleyball on Thursday, September 19, but it was accomplished. The Lady Raiders fought off a resilient Columbia team to win the match 3-0.
"I just continue to be impressed with our girls finding a way to win," Coach Andrew Taylor said. "There have been several close sets, two close sets to Lincoln Tuesday, two close sets to Columbia and they just stay the course and find a way to get it done."
The win secured the Lady Raiders the District 8-AAA regular season championship.
An added element of celebration came after the match was completed. Immediately after the victory, junior Lexi Bryan was recognized as the all-time kills leader in program history.
"I just want to cry because I'm so happy. This has been my goal since my freshman year and I finally achieved it," Bryan said. "I feel like can accomplish a lot more."
Taylor explained that the team's clutch performance in high-pressure matches was due to each player's ability to step up in big moments. He also said that the girls have been very successful at executing their roles as of late.
"Everybody's doing their responsibility. Everybody's playing their spot," Taylor said. "Defensively, we're where we're supposed to be. Our hitting was better tonight, overall we hit at a higher percentage. As our hitting percentage goes up, we're gonna play better."
CHS opened up an early lead in the first set before Columbia began to climb back. Holding on to a 10-7 lead, the Lady Raiders gave themselves more space and went on to win the set 25-17.
The Lady Lions turned up the pressure in the second. After CHS began the set up 7-3, Columbia fought back to take a 14-13 lead, its first of the night. After Kiya Ferrell hit the tying shot, an out-of-bounds Columbia ball briefly put the Lady Raiders back in front 15-14.
The CHS lead did not last long. The Lady Lions continued to stay in the set and soon retook the lead. Down 21-19, the Lady Raiders battled to tie the set at 23 and take the next two points to win 25-23.
With CHS up 2-0, the match remained close in the third set. The Lady Raiders led early before Columbia tied it at 16 and again at 17. In both points, Bryan delivered the shot to briefly put CHS back up by one.
The cycle of ties and short-lived Lady Raider advantages continued until the Lady Lions broke loose to take a 24-23 lead. With Columbia one point away from forcing a fourth set, the Lady Raiders tied it three straight times before retaking the advantage at 27-26. On the next point, Abigail Parker delivered the final blow on an ace to seal the set at 28-26 and take the match.
"We've got an experienced team," Taylor said. "I think the experience is helping them, a lot of these girls were in the same situations last year."
The team finished with 10 aces, led by Amanda Mukai with five. Mukai also led in assists with 19. Ferrell and Keri Munn led the way in kills with nine each, followed by Bryan and Keelie Hillis at eight apiece. Ferrell also took the top spot in digs with 16.