Franklin boys volleyball manages sweep of Center Grove

Franklin didn’t face much of a challenge in its four tournament matches last weekend, but longtime rival Center Grove — which pushed the Grizzly Cubs to five sets in last year’s meeting — offered far more of a test on Tuesday night.

Consider that test passed.

Riding 14 kills from senior Zach Newton, the last of those to stave off a set point in the third, the host Grizzly Cubs came through in a number of clutch situations down the stretch to secure a 25-21, 25-14, 27-25 sweep.

“They didn’t ever really look like they were rattled,” Franklin coach Sarah Records said of her team, which improved to 8-3 on the season. “Seeing them kind of fight and dig in under pressure like that was a really great thing to see. We came off of a weekend where we had a little bit of an easier time against some teams and created some gaps, and so to have a set like that tonight to be able to see what we can do under pressure, it was really good to see them react in a positive way and to just keep digging point by point.”

After dropping the first two sets, Center Grove (5-3) punched back in the third, taking a 5-4 lead on an Alex Vassar block and eventually stretching it out to 15-10 when Jadyn McCrory delivered back-to-back aces and forced the Grizzly Cubs to call their first timeout of the night. Trojan errors fueled a 5-0 Franklin spurt that evened the score, and the two sides were deadlocked again at 18-18 before kills by Vassar and McCrory put the visitors ahead by two.

Two more kills by Vassar then gave the Trojans a pair of set points, the second of those at 25-24, but Newton had the last word. He came up with one last kill to tie the set for an 11th time, then followed with an ace to put Franklin on top. A Center Grove attacking error ended the match.

“This game really did show that the work we’ve been putting in has shown and we can come back from a big deficit,” Newton said.

The first set was close most of the way, with eight ties and four lead changes; neither side had a lead of more than two points until a Nik Smock service ace capped a 6-1 spurt that gave the Grizzly Cubs an 18-15 edge. Center Grove fought off a pair of set points before Newton’s fifth kill of the set finally put it away for Franklin.

The Trojans got out to a 4-1 lead in the second set before the home team stopped the run with a Chase Alyea kill and then reeled off five more points on the serve of Jacob Miller to pull out in front for good. Center Grove pulled back within a point at 10-9, but a tip kill by Newton set off a run of eight straight points that built Franklin’s lead to a comfortable 18-9.

Miller finished with 10 kills and Alyea added seven for the Grizzly Cubs, who also got 38 assists from Charlie Sanders and 11 digs from Smock. Vassar had seven of his team-best 10 kills in the third set for the Trojans.

For Franklin, the knowledge that it can climb back out of a hole against a strong Center Grove team should serve it well the rest of the way.

“This will be something we kind of come back to, our ability to hang in this moment and translate that to another situation just like it,” Records said.

“We only lost one senior last year, so our team’s pretty compact and we all know each other really good,” Newton added. “We all work really well together, and we’ve all been playing club, so that’s definitely a big part, getting a lot more reps; a lot more reps against good teams helps a lot.”

Especially when those reps turn into a win.