Playing an opponent at each end of the volleyball season presents unique challenges, but Greenwood passed with flying colors.

The Woodmen opened the Class 4A sectional at Shelbyville on Thursday with a 25-18, 25-18, 25-18 sweep of county and conference rival Whiteland. The win improves Greenwood’s record to 18-12 and qualifies it for Saturday’s 11 a.m. semifinal against Franklin Central.

Longtime rivals Franklin (12-16) and Center Grove (20-9) square off in the second semi, with the title match to be played Saturday night. The Grizzly Cubs did their part with Thursday’s 25-22, 25-22, 25-15 defeat of the host Golden Bears.

Junior outside hitter Mya Ayro led Greenwood with 11 kills, followed by seniors Jenna Armstrong and Abbey Gregory with nine and eight, respectively. Sophomore hitter Kennedi Morrison was a force for the Warriors (6-15) with 13 kills.

“It’s really hard to play a team again, especially one we played at the beginning of the season, and then try to guess what’s going to happen at the end of the season,” Woodmen coach Charisse Mitchell said. “Both teams went through a lot of growth, obviously, so it’s kind of an unpredictable situation.

“I’m glad we pulled through in the end.”

Greenwood, which also downed Whiteland in three sets in August, eventually took command in all three on Thursday.

In the first, Whiteland jumped out to a 5-2 advantage before the Cubs began asserting themselves, Ayro serving five consecutive Woodmen points, aided by two Gregory kills and Armstrong’s tip.

The Warriors were tied, 9-all, in the second before Greenwood again started to separate itself with kills from Armstrong, soph Amy Luttrell and Katie Newett. The Woodmen broke free from a 6-6 deadlock in the third, scoring six of the next seven points.

In all three cases, the Warriors, led by Morrison and sophomore Ashlyn Ricketts (four kills), kept things interesting as long as they could.

“I think our biggest thing was even though we beat them earlier in the season, making sure we weren’t coming in too confident,” Armstrong said. “We had to make sure we were playing to our top level. We definitely came out siding out stronger and didn’t let up right away.”

The second match looked as though it might go four or five sets, but Franklin thought differently.

After leading the entire first set, the Grizzly Cubs found themselves behind, 12-5, in the second before finally generating some momentum. Shelbyville still held a 22-17 advantage when Franklin rattled off eight consecutive points.

“The second set we started off slow, but we have great teamwork and we utilized our timeouts,” said Cubs sophomore middle blocker Scarlett Kimbrell, who led the way with 14 kills. “You never give up and you just keep fighting. I always think we can win.

“Every team is beatable, so we just have to work hard.”

Brooklyn York, another Franklin 10th-grader, chipped in nine kills, with Veronica Whitaker and Kate Pinnick adding four and three, respectively.

Senior libero Chloe Hoy scored service aces on two of the Grizzly Cubs’ first three points of the match; fittingly, senior defensive specialist Paris Johnson ended the match with her second ace of the night.