The host Lady Warriors had a strong showing going 3-1 and making it to the championship game before falling to South Bend Saint Joseph in two games.
The Lady Warriors and Lady Indians met in the championship game in the high school’s main gym after both teams had won its respective pools earlier in the day. St. Joe entered the final after going undefeated in the gold pool, defeating Culver Girls Academy, Wabash and Columbia City. The Lady Indians only dropped one game in the three matches.
Wawasee would play the underdog to the 3A No. 14-ranked St. Joe squad and the Lady Warriors did not back down from the daunting task.
Wawasee senior Anne Beer helped her team jump out to an early 3-0 lead in the first game but it did not take St. Joe long to take the lead as they went on a 6-0 run to take control. The Lady Warriors played tough but were not able to overcome St. Joe’s size and overall talent. The Lady Indians could not shake Wawasee until the end of the game pulling out a well-earned 25-18 victory.
In the second game of the best-of-three match the cream would rise to the top with St. Joe jumping on the Lady Warriors early. Some mental errors from Wawasee would also come into to play as the team would fall 25-13 to finish second in the tournament.
After the final match Wawasee head coach Jeff Phillips had some positive insights on his team’s performance, “This all goes back to our match on Thursday when we played a Concord team that we felt we could beat and we didn’t. In the locker room after the game we looked at the upcoming schedule and what to expect with our tournament and said we wanted to go 3-1, and we did that today.”
Getting those three wins was of utmost importance to the Lady Warriors because of where it put the team for the season, “We were 12-6 coming into the tournament and now that we went 3-1 today it puts us at 15-7 which gives us more varsity wins then we had last season,” Phillips continued.
The Lady Warriors tallied those three victories by winning the green pool in the tournament.
Wawasee started its winning trend by knocking out Whitko in the first match of the day. The Warriors were able to make quick work of the Wildcats in two games, winning 25-13 and 25-8. Whitko did not have much luck at the Invite, losing all four of its games, including its final match to Culver Academy 25-14, 25-17.
Wawasee would struggle in its next match with an upset-minded Garrett squad. Wawasee stumbled early, but came from behind to take the first game 25-22. The Lady Warriors held off a strong push from the Lady Railroaders in the second game to hold on 25-21.
The final match of pool play would have the Lady Warriors square off against the Lady Bruins of Bethany Christian. Bethany also entered the game with a 2-0 pool record. The Lady Bruins took the first game from Wawasee in decisive fashion winning 25-15. Wawasee buckled down and grinded out a win in game two, 25-20, with help from two underclassmen, Olivia Huffman and Paige Hlutke.
The two young guns would make their presence known in the decisive game three, assisting the team to a 15-10 victory, securing a spot in the title game. Phillips acknowledged the young girls contribution to the successful showing by his team.
“We did get some players that aren’t really in our number one lineup some varsity experience in a big situation,” Phillips said. “Olivia got to step up and set in her first varsity experience and Paige had her first significant varsity experience today. It’s good for those two as sophomores to step up.”
Another Lady Warrior that stepped up for Wawasee was senior Taylor Spangle who would receive an all-tournament team nod. Spangle finished the day with 11 kills, four blocks, four digs and an ace.
Fellow senior Anne Beer would lead the team in kills, tallying up 14 on the day. The senior also inked 29 digs in the tournament. Sophomore Allie Ousley led the team with 26 assists. Junior Hunter Gaerte had the most aces for her team with five. And sophomore libero Aly Anderson lead all of her teammates with 39 digs on the day.
Wawasee will now put its 15-7 record to the test against rival Warsaw when the Lady Tigers travel to Syracuse Thursday night. Warsaw currently boasts a 15-1 record on the season and undefeated mark in conference play.
Coach Phillips knows the matchup to come will give his girls a handful and they will look to build from last year’s match where they surprisingly took a game from the heavily favored Lady Tigers before ultimately losing the match 3-1. The coach was very blunt with his goal for the rivalry match, “We have to make them earn every point.”
Warsaw and Wawasee dig in Thursday with the junior varsity squads starting the action at 5:30 p.m. with varsity to follow.