It was a good thing too that her Warsaw volleyball teammates listened to the self-proclaimed “Loud Mouth”.
The Tigers, challenged by Jensen in the team huddle after falling down 2-1, roared back to walk the walk after Jensen talked the talk to them to post a thrilling 3-2 Northern Lakes Conference win over Elkhart Memorial.
The gutty, hard-fought 25-22, 19-25, 21-25, 25-15, 15-12 league win over the host Crimson Chargers by the resilient Tigers was one for the history books.
Perennial power Memorial, a four-time Class 4-A state finalist with a pair of state runner-up finishes, had won 76 straight NLC matches since losing to Warsaw in their first-ever match in the league in 2001. Coach Jacquie Rost’s team won 3-2 at Warsaw last year during the regular season and then 3-0 in the sectional.
This night, however, belonged to the never-say-die Tigers. Warsaw rallied from a 2-1 deficit on the road for the second time in four nights (they won 3-2 at Mishawaka Marian Monday night) with a mettle as tough as steel.
But, it was an in-your-face, motivational message by Jensen that sparked the surge in the final two games of the tussle of rivals. The middle hitter, one of five seniors, was to the point with her teammates with a passionate plea that sparked the Tigers.
“We finally realized after game three that we had to do it,” said Jensen of her boisterous pep talk. “We had a mindset change. We woke up in game four and then played our game.
“Memorial is our big rival and every year we start strong against them and then fall back like tonight. We knew we could win this match and I told our team we were not going to lose it after game three. I’m definitely the most vocal person on our team because I have the loudest voice. I’m a loud mouth.
“I really don’t have the words to tell you what this means. It’s amazing and just a great feeling. This is our big match.”
The Tigers, now 6-1, got their passing together in the final two games. Warsaw, which posted a 25-7 mark a year ago, blazed to a 12-2 lead in game four en route to evening the match.
The final game of the two-hour plus showdown saw Emily Poe lead the way to victory. The talented junior outside hitter, who had a match-high 20 kills, was superb in the finale. She slammed three kills early as Warsaw took a quick 5-0 lead before Rost called timeout.
Memorial rallied within 11-9 on a kill by Tori Mills. Katie Voelz then had a block, followed by another from Jamie Lacheta to give the Tigers a 13-9 edge. The Chargers then scored three of the next four points, two coming on Warsaw attack errors, to make it interesting at 14-12. The Tigers won when a Crimson Charger kill attempt by Mills sailed long, setting off a jubilant celebration.“Memorial is the gold standard and the measuring stick and it’s awesome to win this match,” said Warsaw coach Mike Howard. “We knew we would have to beat them. There’s a reason why they’ve won 76 in a row. They defended like crazy.
“We were tentative and unsure with our serve receive in games two and three. But, it came around. We handled the ball when we had to and that was the difference in the match. We said if we keep it off the floor and out of the stands we win tonight.
“Poe heated up in game four for us. We want to win the NLC and this just puts a bigger target on us. We know we have to hold serve now to win it.
“A big thing was how Sam Jensen took over in the huddle after game three. She may be our leader and she’s the heart of this team. I’m so proud of her.”
Warsaw bolted to a 10-4 lead in the opening game. Memorial rallied within 22-21 late before a key kill by senior star Lacheta made it 23-21. A tip kill by Lexa Magnuson of the Chargers cut it to 23-22 before Lacheta crushed a kill off a Charger block attempt from the back row and then Memorial was called for a net violation.
The Chargers, who drop to 1-2, controlled game two to even the match. Warsaw, despite its passing woes, led 19-18 in game three before Rost took a smart timeout. The Chargers, led by Mills, Magnuson, Paige Newvine and Christy Hill, closed with a 7-2 run to take the game 25-21 and a 2-1 edge.
Rost, whose team was 32-5 overall a year ago, knows Thursday night needs to be a learning experience.
“We’ll see how they react, but I have no doubt my girls will be motivated by this,” said Rost, after spending a good 30-40 minutes behind closed doors with her team following the tough loss. “This needs to be a growing experience for us. We need to keep working. I know my girls are embarrassed to be the team that lost the streak, but to me that’s a good thing to motivate them. The streak has been one of our goals the past 10 years, but it’s not our only goal.
“I’m happy for Mike. I have a lot of respect for him. Warsaw was the better team tonight. We knew the calibre of team they had. We scouted them Monday night at Marian and had a game plan. Sometimes we executed it tonight and sometimes we didn’t. We ran up against a good team tonight.”
The pair of rivals could meet again come October in the Class 4-A Northridge Sectional.Poe slammed 20 kills and had two blocks for the Tigers in the win. Lacheta had 17 kills, three blocks, 22 digs and two aces. Sophomore Katie Voelz had seven kills and three blocks, senior libero Alex Sanchez 27 digs and senior setter Chloe Hubner 41 assists.
Newvine, one of six seniors, turned in a strong, all-around effort for the hosts. She led Memorial with 10 kills. Senior Hill and senior Magnuson each had nine and sophomore Mills added eight. Newvine had 22 assists and Mills 17. Magnuson, sophomore Maddy Robison and sophomore Claire Welter each had three aces. Newvine had 18 digs, Mills 13, senior Stephanie Bettis 11 and Robison 10. Magnuson, Hill and senior Brianne Ballow led in blocking.
Warsaw also rallied to win the JV contest 16-25, 25-20, 15-5.
Warsaw (6-1, 1-0) hosts Whitko Tuesday. Memorial (1-2, 0-1) plays in the power-packed Mishawaka Invitational Saturday.