Latin came into Thursday’s Class 3A Westinghouse Sectional final looking to become the first volleyball team in program history to win a sectional title.
Payton, on the other hand, was looking to prove it doesn’t rebuild but reloads.
In the end, experience proved supreme as the Payton veterans pulled off a thrilling 19-25, 25-23, 25-22 win to claim the Grizzlies’ fourth sectional crown in six years.
“This team is really close, possibly closer than any of the other teams I’ve been on,” said senior Morgan Barnes of the differences between this team and the Payton team that won a sectional two years ago.
Initially, the Romans (27-4) looked deserving of the top seed, as they blew open a 4-3 Game 1 lead to 14-6 thanks to three kills and an ace from Catie Cronister. The Grizzles were able to trim an 18-8 deficit to 21-16, but a kill by Camden Olson and another ace from the hard-hitting Cronister, as well as two kills from Isabela Sessions, closed out the Latin win.
Like Latin did in the Game 1, Payton came out blazing in the second. The Grizzlies broke open a 5-4 lead by going on a 17-6 run, extending the advantage to 22-10, making Game 2 look all but won.
“We just needed to focus more and we knew it,” Olivia Rozmus said. “Getting to the Final Four has been something we’ve wanted since Day 1, and when you see that slipping away it leaves you wanting it even more.”
But Latin wasn’t done yet. The Romans won 13 of the next 14 points to tie the game at 23. Sessions had four kills and Olson five aces in the spectacular run. Payton kept its composure, however, and pulled out the Game 2 win with a block and ace to send the match to a third game.
“I think it was a bunch of miscommunication by us that helped them get on that run,” Rozmus said. “It does play with your mind but you just have to put it out of your mind.”
The third and deciding game started as a back-and-forth affair with the teams trading point-for-point. But that’s when Rozmus came to shine. A block of Cronister and a Rozmus kill gave the Grizzlies a 15-13 lead, forcing Latin coach Shari Davis to call a timeout. A Barnes kill, along with another kill from Rozmus and a Latin error, gave Payton some breathing room at 18-13.
But as they had all match, the Romans remained resilient and went on a 7-2 run to tie the set at 20. Cronister had two kills and libero Emily Salzman had two aces in the run.
Latin got it to within 23-22, but Payton ended the match with back-to-back kills from Meredith Sonnefeldt to win the match.
Cronister had 14 kills and Sessions 13 for Latin. Rozmus had 13 kills for Payton (26-11).
The win sends Payton to the Antioch Supersectional to face Marian Central, who the Grizzlies defeated in a supersectional five years ago.