The pace implemented by boys volleyball in perhaps becoming a sanctioned sport in Indiana has been, shall we say, deliberate.
Center Grove’s program, like that at Franklin, is now more than 20 years a reality.
On Tuesday, these pioneers of sorts got together as the Grizzly Cubs hosted the Trojans in what turned out to be a five-set marathon won by Franklin, 25-19, 14-25, 22-25, 25-20, 15-13.
The Cubs are now 5-1 on the season, earning every bit of the fifth win.
“With what we’ve seen of Center Grove, and what I’ve kind of been tracking of them this season, I thought for sure this was easily one that could go five,” Franklin coach Sarah Records said. “Then you build in the natural Johnson County rivalry, and anything can happen.”
Junior Zach Newton left-handed his way to 13 kills to lead the Cubs, while sophomore Chase Alyea led in blocks with four and the team’s lone senior, libero Kaden Baltimore, provided 31 digs.
But as impressive as Franklin was in winning the opening set, the Trojans, led by sophomore hitter Alex Vassar, proved more than equal to the task, winning the following two sets to take command.
Center Grove even held a 14-11 advantage in an effort to close it out in four sets, but it was it this point the momentum shifted 180 degrees with the home squad overtaking the Trojans down the stretch.
“We have some young guys in our starting lineup this year, so to watch them kind of battle through this, it would have been real easy for them to give up in set four,” Records said. “I’m extremely proud of what they put in tonight, and to battle back.
“Even in set five, we got ourselves into a hole, and to battle back out of that is huge for them just in terms of a mental win.”
Though the sports rivalries between Franklin and Center Grove span generations, the one in boys volleyball isn’t as well-known since the sport has yet to be sanctioned.
Baltimore, who also chipped in two service aces, insists it should be.
“It’s 100-percent a big thing,” he said. “We’ve had a long rivalry for a very long time, probably since both the programs started.”
Baltimore admits to being somewhat downcast after his team fell behind, 2 sets to 1, but it was nothing a well-timed timeout or two couldn’t remedy.
“Honestly, it was me and my coach,” he said. “I won’t even lie, I hung my head down for a little bit every now and then, but that’s part of the sport sometimes.”
In the fifth and deciding set, Center Grove jumped out to an 8-3 advantage, but slowly, surely, the Grizzly Cubs clawed their way back, eventually tying the score at 13-13 after an Alyea tip and a kill from soph Jacob Miller.
Following another timeout, Franklin prevailed with points, again, from Alyea and Miller.
Vassar led the Trojans with 15 kills.