By Beau Wicker
---- — Logansport was hoping this would be the year it would win its first volleyball sectional since class sports were enacted with Class 4A, Sectional 7 being at the Berry Bowl.
But McCutcheon had other ideas. The Mavericks knocked out the Berries in four games (28-26, 25-17, 20-25, 25-21) in a semifinal match on Saturday morning.
McCutcheon then defeated Harrison in four games (19-25, 25-21, 26-24, 25-23) in the final Saturday night to win its second sectional title in the last three years.
McCutcheon (14-19) will host No. 1-ranked Carmel in a regional game on Tuesday. Logan finishes 19-14.
Logan coach Jon Vernon said his squad played well, it was just not enough against the Mavericks.
“We’re right there. We were ahead in games. We were good today and in certain spots they played better than us,” he said. “I thought the kids played well. I thought the kids played hard, they played aggressive.
“Every game that we played today we were ahead, we just didn’t finish it out. That’s been the story for us this year is we just didn’t finish out games.”
The first game ended up being the key set of the match. The Berries switched some things up at the start of the match and appeared to rattle the Mavericks in jumping out to a 17-9 lead in set one.
But the Mavericks’ resolve was made of steel all day. They battled back and took the set with a 19-9 run.
“We have eight points to finish out the game, they came back,” Vernon lamented.
The Berries thought they had won the set 26-24 after a double hit call on the Mavericks. But the down official called a net violation on the Berries and after a long conference the officials deemed the infractions were simultaneous and had the teams replay the point in which the Mavericks ended up winning.
“Initially he gave us the point,” Vernon said. “I think in that situation the up official is supposed to make the final determination and make his call. He made his call first and then the down official made the call. I’m not blaming the officials because in a couple crucial situations there at the very end of the game we didn’t pass the ball real well.”
Syd Bullard led the Berries with 19 kills and 11 digs in the contest. Nakeya Penny had 10 kills and two blocks, and Monika Ness had seven kills and a block.
Katie Easter and Hannah Jones each recorded four aces. Easter added 22 assists and 10 digs, and Jones had 19 assists and six digs. Lindsey Cheney collected 10 digs.
Karlee Vernon had four kills and six digs, and Kailey Vernon had five digs. Paulie Frye added three kills, five digs and a block.
The Berries graduate five seniors: Cheney, Jones, Frye, Kailey Vernon and Lauren Pruitt.
“It’s tough when you’ve got five seniors that are playing and one of them’s your daughter and she’s playing and she’s graduation on,” Jon Vernon said. “I feel bad for them, I feel bad that it ended this way because I know they really wanted to be in this championship game tonight. But sometimes it just doesn’t go your way.”
The Berries finished one win shy of extending their streak of five straight years of winning at least 20 matches. They averaged over 24 wins per season the previous four seasons including winning 26 last year.
“We did play a tougher schedule of what they’ve ever played in the past. Teams were better,” Jon Vernon said. “We went to Zionsville and played in a tournament. We played Crown Point, a very good, athletic team. And that’s no excuse, but we are playing better competition. We let West Lafayette get away from us, we let Kokomo get away from us. So right there we’re at 21-11. Those were games we just let get away.
“We’ll be fine. We are playing a tougher schedule. We’re not playing 1A schools all the time and 2A schools, and that’s what’s going to make us better in the long run."
The future of the program remains bright. The Berries will have their four top kill leaders back next year (Bullard, Penny, Ness, Karlee Vernon) and their leader in aces (Easter). Their JV went 24-6. Jon Vernon added that over 100 girls signed up to play club ball at the recent county middle school tournament as well.