INDIANAPOLIS — The New Palestine Dragons weren’t overlooking Indianapolis Herron on Thursday night, but the future, and the past for that matter, were too difficult to ignore.
After routing the Achaeans in straight sets 25-9, 25-6, 25-3 during the Crispus Attucks Sectional 27 quarterfinals, the Class 3A No. 7 Dragons immediately locked in on their next target — No. 13 Bishop Chatard (13-23).
Gathering collectively in the stands to watch a portion of the evening’s second match, the Dragons (23-10) did their part by advancing into Saturday morning’s sectional semifinal.
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As expected, No. 13 Bishop Chatard did as well, defeating the host Tigers to set up a rematch of last year’s sectional finals, one round earlier.
Losing to the Trojans 3-0 (25-23, 25-23, 25-18) a year ago in the championship, New Palestine head coach Kelli Whitaker admits the wound remains fresh.
“I’ve been thinking about that game since we played it,” she said. “I’ve been checking their scores the entire season. Who they’ve played, the games they’ve won and lost, and what player is doing what. I’ve scouted them twice.”
One last look didn’t hurt. If anything, it fueled them more.
“Last year was the worst time when we lost that game. I can’t describe the feeling of how mad I was when we lost that one. We had it, and we just let it slip away from us,” New Palestine senior setter Kara Morris remarked. “This year, we’re ready to get it after 26 years of not winning a sectional.”
With only two sectional titles in program history — captured in 1982 and 1989 — New Palestine took its first step with a convincing win against Herron.
Junior Allison Dennemann, a University of Pacific recruit, led the Dragons’ front row attack with 15 kills, a pair of aces and seven digs.
Mia Long, a junior, thrived with 11 kills, 11 digs and four aces, while Morris dished out 35 assists.
The Dragons used an 8-0 run in the first set to take a commanding 14-2 lead and strung together a 17-0 run in the second to pull ahead 19-1. In the third set, New Palestine trailed 1-0, but they immediately took control, rolling to a 21-4 lead after a 10-0 run.
Maddie Wampner fired four aces as Jordan Brittsan and Morgan Willard (four kills) combined for six block assists. Brittsan recorded a solo block and was 6 of 7 in kill attempts.
“What we really focused on today was ourselves, taking care of what need to do. We talked a lot about it this week,” Whitaker said. “We knew we had to come out and be our best. That’s what I’ve been telling the girls, whatever your role is, come out and give me your best.”
With Chatard up next, the Dragons intend to offer nothing less at 11 a.m. on Saturday, minus the waiting game.
“Tonight, we were just trying to perfect our game so we’re ready for Saturday morning with Chatard. All year we’ve been preparing for that game,” Morris said. “Playing them (in the semifinal) takes a lot of pressure off, knowing it’s not the final game. We can wake up and prepare just for them. There’s no thinking about them all day this time.”
Or at least for one more day.
Class 3A Sectional 27
New Palestine 3, Herron 0
NP Statistics: Allison Dennemann 2 aces, 15 kills, 7 digs; Mia Long 4 aces, 11 kills, 11 digs; Kara Morris 35 assists; Morgan Willard 4 kills, 3 block assists; Jordan Brittsan 6 kills, 1 solo block, 3 block assists, Maddie Wampner 4 aces.