GREENFIELD — On paper, the New Palestine volleyball team made it look easy.
Sweeping through three matches over three days to finish a perfect 9-0 during the Greenfield-Central Sectional Tournament, everything fell together for the Dragons en route to history.
Moved up a classification this past offseason, the Dragons (27-6) opened their first Class 4A postseason with a sound 3-0 quarterfinal victory against Richmond on Thursday.
The trend continued Saturday as New Palestine remained sharp, knocking off a pair of Hoosier Heritage Conference foes back-to-back to claim their second straight sectional championship and first in 4A.
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“It’s a huge accomplishment. They are so excited. We talked about making history again,” New Palestine head coach Kelli Whitaker said. “We’re excited to see 2017 go up on that sectional banner in our gym.”
Last year’s Class 3A sectional title run was the program’s first since 1989 and third overall. Their fourth championship all-time required a dedicated approach as they topped rival Mt. Vernon 3-0 during Saturday morning’s semifinal round and Pendleton Heights 3-0 in the final.
New Palestine defeated Pendleton Heights 3-0 during the regular season Sept. 14, but they lost 3-2 to Mt. Vernon in a five-set tug-of-war just prior to the sectional, which fueled their repeat ambition.
“The Mt. Vernon game was extremely tough. Obviously, we lost to them in the regular season, but we knew that game didn’t mean anything now. We wanted to get the sectional win,” Whitaker said. “We learned a lot from our mistakes the first time we played them.”
The game plan took some time to develop, however, as the defending sectional champion Mt. Vernon Marauders (18-12) grabbed the early momentum, leading 5-0 in the first set. The Dragons rallied back to pull ahead and win the set 26-24 and the rest of the match 25-19, 25-17.
“The girls executed the plan perfectly. I was so proud,” Whitaker said. “Mt. Vernon is a huge rival school, so when you’re playing them back-to-back within a week’s time basically, that’s hard to do. I’m just really glad we came out on top because it was a battle.”
New Palestine seniors Allison Dennemann and Mia Long led the attack with 16 and 17 kills, respectively. Dennemann added 21 digs for a double-double, elevating her season kills total to 547 at the tournament’s conclusion while collecting her 305th dig.
Sydney Robertson fed the offense with 42 assists during the match, and defensive specialist Lydia Jones had 16 digs. Robertson finished the day’s doubleheader with 80 assists and Jones had 29 digs.
Against Pendleton Heights, the formula remained the same with Long converted 17 kills attempts and posted 10 digs. Dennemann, a University of the Pacific recruit, delivered 18 kills and seven digs.
New Palestine was never truly threatened by the Pendleton Heights Arabians, winning the match 25-14, 25-13, 25-12.
Up next, the Dragons will compete in their second straight regional this Saturday at Greenfield-Central, where they face Lawrence North (17-17) at noon. No. 2 Avon (33-3) and Roncalli (26-7) play in the other semifinal at 10 a.m.
“We played (Lawrence North) in summer league and we beat them, but that doesn’t say much because we were missing some players and they were probably missing some players,” Whitaker said. “They’ve been a good program for a long time, and they are well-coached. We’ll watch some film and see what their tendencies are, but we just have to take care of our side of the court.”
New Palestine 3, Mt. Vernon 0
Kills: Allison Dennemann 16, Mia Long 17, Jordan Brittsan 5, Jesi Hall 5 (NP); Sarah Herman 11, Victoria Bulmahn 11, Claire Ertel 6 (MV). Digs: A. Dennemann 21, Lydia Jones 16, Sydney Robertson 10 (NP); Victoria Bulmahn 12, Claire Ertel 15, Grace Hurst 26 (MV). Assists: Sydney Robertson 42 (NP); Victoria Bulmahn 11, Meridan Eads 12 (MV).
New Palestine 3, Pendleton Heights 0
Kills: A. Dennemann 18, M. Long 17, J. Brittsan 5 (NP). Digs: Lydia Jones 13, A. Dennemann 7, M. Long 10 (NP). Assists: Sydney Robertson 38 (NP).