By Justin Whitaker
— Avon volleyball team’s journey to return to state continues today.
The Class 4A No. 4-ranked Orioles (32-5) take on No. 3-ranked Columbus East in the second of semistate games at Seymour. The winner will advance to face the victor of the early game between Seymour and Cathedral at 7 p.m.
If Avon advances to the semistate championship game and wins, the Orioles will be headed to the state finals in back-to-back years.
But the immediate challenge resides in the Columbus East Olympians.
The two teams split head-to-head meetings this season 1-1.
‘They are a very good team,” Avon coach Scott McQueen said. “Obviously everybody that is left is a good opponent. But we just have to do a good job defending their tendencies and understand they are going to move the ball around a lot. We have to keep an eye on their players and try and read them a little bit better than we did the second time.”
Avon won the first meeting 2-0 (25-19, 25-18) on Sept. 22 at the Muncie Central Tournament. In that match, Oriole sophomore Beth Prince had 12 kills and seven digs and junior Rachel Griffin contributed 24 assists and five digs.
Two weeks later, Columbus East won 2-0 (25-21, 25-22) on Oct. 6 at the Columbus East Tournament. In that meeting, Prince notched 10 kills, Griffin added 17 assists and Rebekah Strange had nine digs.
With a shot at advancing to the semistate finals, Avon knows what they need to do to beat Columbus East.
“We are going to have to handle the ball well, stay composed throughout,” McQueen said. “They have a couple unique offensive options and we need to able to defend that well.”
Since losing to the Olympians on Oct. 6, the Orioles have won six games by a combined 18-2 sets.
Avon tore through sectional 11 at Perry Meridian to win their 12th sectional title in a row.
The Orioles beat Decatur Central (3-0), Pike (3-0) and No. 7-ranked Perry Meridian (3-0) in the sectional championship.
Martinsville (29-4) provided the next obstacle for Avon in the one-game regional. The Orioles stood on the brink of elimination after winning the first set, 25-15, and losing the next two, 19-25 and 22-25. But Avon bounced back to win the final two sets 25-22 and 15-10 and to claim its third straight regional crown.
“They persevered,” McQueen said. “We talk a lot about making sure we stay composed. We’ve been there, done that and had big crowds against us so it wasn’t something that we had not seen before. They kept working at it, kept doing the things that were successful and kind of tuned out the negatives.”