ONE AND DONE: Madison’s Ainsly Liter (on floor), Hannah Imel, Hope Miller, Maddie Thomas and Kingsley Hanson (from left) stand stunned and dejected as Batesville’s Kara Obermeyer (12) celebrates after the Bulldogs knocked off Madison in five sets Tuesday night at the Franklin County volleyball sectional. (Staff photo by David Campbell)
ONE AND DONE: Madison’s Ainsly Liter (on floor), Hannah Imel, Hope Miller, Maddie Thomas and Kingsley Hanson (from left) stand stunned and dejected as Batesville’s Kara Obermeyer (12) celebrates after the Bulldogs knocked off Madison in five sets Tuesday night at the Franklin County volleyball sectional. (Staff photo by David Campbell)
BROOKVILLE — No local volleyball team has won more games over the past six seasons than Madison, but postseason success eluded the Lady Cubs once again on Tuesday.

Despite large stretches where Madison was clearly the dominate team, mistakes proved too costly to overcome in a 3-2 (27-25, 15-25, 20-25, 25-22, 15-11) loss to Batesville in the Class 3A Sectional Tournament quarterfinals at Franklin County High School.

Madison blew a 21-13 lead in game one and nearly repeated the feat in game three. Overall the Cubs missed 20 serves on the night — nearly 15 over their season average — including four in the crucial fifth set.

It all added up to another disappointing one-and-done tournament appearance for Madison, which has won 150 matches over the past six seasons but has reached the sectional final only twice and hasn’t won a crown since 1998.

“I don’t have a lot to say. We were the better team and we lost,” Madison coach Jeff Lawson said. “We were out-coached, we were out-played. I think our youth showed up a little bit tonight. I thought when we dominated, we dominated; when we looked bad, we looked bad.

“They came in wanting to win but overall, they just weren’t the better team,” Lawson added. “Too many mistakes. Too many mistakes.”

By all rights the match should have been over in three games. Despite a slow start in game one, Madison quickly took control and overpowered Batesville, running out to a 21-13 lead behind the strength of its front line and defense.

But the Bulldogs (17-13) broke Madison’s run with back-to-back kills by Hattie Westerfield and the Cubs tightened, committing seven errors or violations to allow Batesville back into the set thanks to a 10-3 run.

Madison (25-9) still had a chance to win but a line violation on set point gave the serve back to Batesville and Kara Obermeyer responded with a service ace to tie the game at 24-24. Kelsey Preocanin’s kill gave set point back to the Cubs, but a serving error by Hope Miller put the ball back in the Bulldogs’ court.

Batesville took advantage, getting another service ace from Meg Reidy to take the lead then a kill by Rachel Gerstbauer clinched the set, 27-25.

The Bulldogs carried that momentum over to the second set, jumping out to leads of 4-0 and 5-1 to force Lawson to call a timeout. But this time the Cubs responded, ripping off 13-straight points behind the serving of Hannah Imel to take a commanding 13-5 lead. Ainsly Liter added three kills during the run.

Unlike the opener, Madison didn’t let this lead get away. The Cubs once again built a 21-13 cushion and never looked back, closing out the 25-15 win.

Madison was nearly as dominate in game three, jumping out to a 19-9 lead and eventually holding a 21-11 advantage.

But just like in game one, the Bulldogs made a run and the Cubs nearly folded. Westerfield punished the Madison defense with six-straight kills to bring Batesville to within 22-19 before a hitting error by another Bulldog finally ended the run.

That mistake opened the door for Madison to put away the set. Maddie Thomas unleashed a kill to get the Cubs to set point and, after an error, Madison closed out the 25-20 win on a Batesville line violation.

Madison now led 2-1 and by all rights should have won the match, but the Cubs were still in a dogfight thanks primarily to mistakes.

“I thought we came out in game two and shook off (the game one loss) and I thought we got everything back in line,” Lawson said. “But you could just get a sense that when they were on, they were on, and when they were off, they were off. Our second rotation really hurt us. (Batesville) just scored chunks and chunks of points when they were out there.”

Unlike the first three sets, game four was a battle from start to finish with the two teams tied 12 times, the last at 19-19 when Thomas hammered a kill for the Cubs. But another Madison serving error gave the ball — and the lead — back to Batesville and the Bulldogs never looked back, getting back-to-back kills by Westerfield to push the lead to 22-19 and set the stage for the 25-22 win to even the match 2-2.

Batesville built a 10-7 lead in game five before Madison battled back to tie the score 10-10. Another service error ended the Cubs’ run but after the Bulldogs pushed the lead to 13-10, Thomas hammered another kill to pull Madison to within two.

But Madison’s 20th and final serving error of the night gave match point to the Bulldogs, who completed the rally with a Gerstbauer kill to clinch the win and end the Cubs’ season.

“We did not serve well all game long and there is no excuse for that on the varsity level,” Lawson said. “But it was a good season; I’m not going to dwell on this. It’s over. We’re not going to learn anything now. What we learned is what we learned and maybe I need to learn some more.”

Westerfield finished the match with 13 kills while Gerstbauer had 11 and was also 14-for-15 serving. Morgan Meyer was 26-for-27 serving with an ace and four kills, Obermeyer was 19-for-19 serving with an ace, Katherine Cook was 13-for-13 serving, Kylie Paul was 13-for-15 serving with two aces, and Reidy was 8-of-13 serving with an ace and five kills.

Sage Sproles, Madison’s lone senior, wrapped up her high school career with 12 kills and 13 blocks while going 2-for-4 serving. She also won 98 matches while losing only 38, making her one the most successful Lady Cubs volleyball players in program history.

“We’re obviously going to miss Sage. She was the engine in the machine that kept it running. She had a good game tonight. She came here to win and played her heart out,” Lawson said. “She’s been a joy to coach for these four years. She’s been challenging for sure, but I’ve enjoyed the challenge and I think the finished product was well worth the effort. I’m very proud of her. I’m very proud of the way she led this team this year and captained this team. And all the way down to the bitter end, she was trying to pull this team back up mentally. It was just too much to overcome.”

Imel was 23-for-28 serving with two aces and two kills and six digs, Thomas had 15 kills, Hope Miller was 17-for-20 serving with three aces, Liter was 16-for-18 serving with nine kills and 10 digs and five blocks, Addy Hill was 16-for-17 serving with 10 digs, Preocanin was 10-of-12 serving with 33 assists, two kills and seven blocks, Kingsley Hanson was 5-of-10 serving with three aces and 12 digs, and Angel Koontz had a kill.

Batesville now advances to the sectional semifinals on Saturday where it will face Rushville (1-21), which received a first-round bye. Today, Greensburg (24-7) faces South Dearborn (8-22) and host Franklin County (17-13) plays Lawrenceburg (23-10) in other first-round matches.