On Tuesday, the Cardington volleyball program not only honored their seven-girl senior class of Izzy Wickline, Payton Goodman, Madison Linkous, Jadine Mills, Audrey Brininger, Alexis Crone and Cadie Long, but closed out the regular season in style with a 25-11, 25-5, 25-8 win over Mount Gilead.
The Pirates led virtually the entire match, with the exception of the early stages of the first period — a fitting end for their seniors’ final regular season in the mind of head coach Ryan Treese.
“These seven seniors have meant a lot to this program; more than just the high school program,” he said. “They built the foundation for our youth program and it’s coming back to life. Our middle school program and it’s coming back to life. They set the standard for the classes below them to try to achieve what they have achieved.”
The Indians gave Cardington trouble early in the match. One point by Candace Millisor and two by Sicily Carrick had the score tied at six. After the Pirates scored on defense and got four in a row by Brininger to lead by five, MG scored three in a row — two off the serve of Aspen Hatfield — to get within an 11-9 count.
However, Cardington would finish the set quickly, getting four points by Linkous and seven straight by Goodman to pull away for the win.
Indian coach Mindy Mowery noted that her team had to battle through some adversity this year.
“We’re a pretty young team,” she said. “We had several young ones come out this year. We had some changes with coaches at the beginning of the season unexpectedly. The girls keep fighting through and keep pushing.”
Unfortunately for Mount Gilead, the experienced Cardington squad was able to use the momentum from the finish of the first set to coast through the second and third. Five points by Long and seven by Mills staked the team to a 14-1 lead in a second set that they won 25-5. Then, in the third, Goodman opened with 14 straight serves for points as the Pirates completed the sweep.
Treese said that having such an experienced squad makes his job a lot easier.
“It’s settling to me in those close matches or when we’re down by a couple points in the 20s,” he said. “They understand what they have to do. They’ve been in those situations since they were freshmen. A lot of kids don’t get that opportunity as freshmen to play in those crucial points.”
The win over Mount Gilead ended the team’s KMAC schedule. The Pirates won their second straight conference title — this time with a perfect 12-0 mark.
“We told them from day one the target was going to be bigger than last year,” said Treese. “That was our goal to go 12-0 because we slipped up the one time last year at Northmor to go 11-1. I said it last week — no matter what sport you play, to go 12-0 in a league is hard to do.”
With the regular season winding down, both coaches now are looking forward to postseason play. Mount Gilead will travel to Ridgedale to open the Division IV tournament.
“I would love to see them go in aggressive, confident and moving their feet,” said Mowery. “Taking what we learned all season and putting it into practice. Keeping a positive attitude moving forward and taking that first win.”
Cardington opens at home against either West Jefferson or Elgin. After making the regional semifinals in Division III last year, Treese said his team was ready to see how far this year’s run will last.
“I honestly think they’re already ready,” he said. “They know what we have to do. All of them have been there. Alexis Crone, who was a sub last year and basically almost a full-time JV player, had to start in the regional semifinal, so all seven of them have been in that moment.”