FISHERS – When Hamilton Southeastern volleyball coach Jason Young took over the program in 2012, he made it a goal to win a sectional title in four to five years.
On Saturday night – toward the end of his fourth season – Young and the Royals made that goal a reality.
Amid a wild celebration on its home floor, HSE found itself clutching the sectional championship trophy for the first time in seven years – and for only the third time in the program’s history – after beating defending state champion Carmel, 3-1, in a Class 4A sectional final.
After dropping a highly-contested second set, HSE pulled away to comfortably win the next two sets en route to the 25-21, 25-27, 25-14, 25-17 win.
The Royals advance to regionals, where they play Zionsville (25-6) at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Zionsville.
“It’s huge,” Young said. “They worked their butts off in the offseason to get to this point. To do it at home in front of these fans is tremendous.”
Not known as a volleyball powerhouse, HSE is certainly changing that perception this season. Ranked No. 2 in the state with a 33-2 record, the Royals are looking to make a deep run in the tournament.
“It’s incredible,” senior middle hitter Hayden Huybers said. “We’ve worked so hard for it this season. State is our goal, but our main goal was to win sectional.”
“We’re a really close team,” she added. “We fight so hard and came together in the closing moments.”
After HSE captured a close first set, the 13th-ranked Greyhounds (21-12) bounced back in the second set by jumping out to leads of 17-9 and 21-16. But the Royals scored seven straight points for a 23-21 lead and had a chance to close out the set up 24-22.
But the Greyhounds survived three set points and, trailing 25-24, closed out the set on a pair of kills from senior outside hitter Kari Truax and the set point from senior middle hitter Carly Cason.
“The energy and pressure (in the second set) was fantastic,” first-year Carmel coach Matt Fishman said. “I told the girls before the match started that by the end of it they’d feel like they were hit by a bus. They showed a lot of heart by coming back (and winning the second set). We definitely put a lot of energy into it.”
But that energy may have taken a toll on the Greyhounds. The Royals dominated the third set, jumping out to a 13-3 lead. Carmel managed to cut it to 16-12, but HSE scored the next four points to put it away for a 2-1 lead.
In the final set, the Royals took a 3-0 lead and never trailed. Leading 19-16, HSE scored six of the final seven points.
“We had been in this situation a number of times before,” Young said of being tied 1-1 entering the third set. “They did an unbelievable job (in the third).
“Huybers did a good job dominating the front net, and the middle did their job. We took them out of the game by blocking.”
Huybers led the way for HSE with a game-high 16 kills, while junior outside hitter Caitlin Kane added 11 kills. Junior setter Makenzie Hinshaw recorded 31 assists, and junior defensive specialist Olivia Burgess added 19 digs.
Carmel – a young team that’s fell victim to the injury bug this season – saw its eight-game winning streak snapped.
“We’re a very young team,” Fishman said. “They punched us in the mouth early in the year (3-0). And to come back and take a set off the No. 2 team in the state says a lot.”
Junior defensive specialist Emily Horvath paced Carmel with 21 digs, while freshman outside hitter Bonnie Bostic added 13 kills.