North Central defeated St. Joseph's 3-2 in the 2020 quarterfinals crushing the dream to run the state in volleyball for a decade, which was a "hard pill to swallow" for Knights coach Jan Carino.
St. Joseph's will now start a new streak, and time will only tell how long it will last.
"I think that happening made us even more determined to win this. Our road through the playoffs was not easy," Carino said. "We won in three but they were not blowouts. We didn't blow teams off the court. Every year all of the teams are getting better, so it's always a competition."
After North Central tied the match 2-2, for a moment, last year's quarterfinals lingered in Dreher High School's gymnasium.
St. Joseph fell to start the match 25-20 but rebounded the next two sets, 25-18, 28-26. North Central still had a fight left in them and claimed the fourth set, 25-18.
"After the fourth set, I don't know what happened. We disappeared, and that happens sometimes, but wow, their No. 2. She served us out of the gate," Carino said.
The Knights road to state included defeating every opponent 3-0: In round one, Christ Church (25-17, 25-17, 25-10); round two, Crescent (25- 20, 25-15, 25-23); round three, Andrew Jackson (25-13, 25-16, 25-16); and in round four, Liberty (25- 17, 25-18, 25-20).
Saturday was a battle between junior Emily Normand and Alayna Johnson. Each team knew who its offensive weapons were and played their cards right.
"I knew going in that they were going to have their strong hitter, we have our strong hitter," Carino said. "I feel like we have a few more weapons than they did. We knew they were going to go to No. 2 (Alayna Johnson) as much as they possibly could. We mainly used Emily … it was Emily vs. No. 2."
Senior libero Maggie Peterson created the opportunity for setter Kimmie Thompson to make the last kill of the match for the Knights to beat North Central, 3-2, and 15-6 in the fifth set and claim the Class AA 2021 state championship.
In Carino's 22 coaching career, the Knights have won their 10th state championship in the last 11 years.
Carino said winning state championships never gets old, and neither does the love that she has for her players each year.
"It's funny because I have a lot of people ask me how long are you going to keep coaching? I love coaching and every year I have a group of girls that come through and there's another group coming up and I want to stay and coach that group," Carino said. "The girls that I work with are such great kids that they just keep me coming back."
The Knights will lose seven seniors after this season: defensive specialists Kate Lyons, Evy Lane and Abby Shafer, opposite hitters Maja Hawthorne and Tatum Hecker, setter Kimmie Thompson and Patterson.
"We have seven seniors on this team so for us to get this championship for those seven seniors means the most," Carino said.
How will Carino keep the dominance consistent? Carino said the work the players do outside of St. Joseph's and fun will keep the program strong.
"I have to give credit to the clubs that they are coached from because it's not all me. They play for some top teams and then they come to me and I'm like 'okay we need to figure out how are we going to put this group together,' " Carino said.
"We do a lot of team bonding off the court. I try to make practice enjoyable. we compete in practice a lot. and I just want them to look forward to coming to practice and that is one of my goals."
This article originally appeared on Anderson Independent Mail: St. Joseph's bring Class-AA volleyball atate title back home