“We just didn’t play well at all, our hitting percentage was negative for the match which means we don’t have a chance to beat any good teams if its negative,” said Wawasee head coach Jeff Phillips. “The discussion of what we need to do as a team, when you are in your last regular season match, game three was more about OK, you play Tippy Valley in nine days at 12:30. If you are not ready, and come out like we did tonight, its going to be a long day against Valley.”
While Phillips remained steadfast the focus is now on Tippecanoe Valley as his girls filed out of the lockerroom into the Syracuse night, the disturbingly flat third game will serve as a teaching point.
Northridge scored 12 of the first 15 points of the third game. As Wawasee continued to make errors – passing, hitting, communicating – Phillips refused a timeout until Northridge had scored 15 of 16 points during a run of play. Challenging his team to find itself, the Lady Raiders refused to give in as Annie Bachman and Mackenzie Eash continued to own the net as Phillips looked on in disbelief.
Bachman had 12 kills to lead the Lady Raiders (22-7 overall, 3-4 in the Northern Lakes Conference) and Eash added three blocks. Laura Craig also had a big night, blocking seven Wawasee attempts, killing seven points and adding a team-high 12 digs.
Alli Ousley did lead the Lady Warriors (18-15, 1-6 NLC) with 22 assists and 18 digs while showing signs of life when Wawasee slogged through several Northridge scoring runs. Wawasee did welcome the energy of Lydia Katsaropoulos, who officially returned from a high ankle sprain and Achilles problem on Tuesday against Triton, but had 13 kills and 1.5 blocks Thursday against Northridge. Katsaropoulos had been sidelined since Aug. 16 when she injured her leg at Fairfield.Katsaropoulos’ play at the net, notably from the outside hitter position, will play a key role in the Wawasee offense heading into the tournament.
“I thought Lydia played well tonight and gave it her all,” Phillips said. “She is not all the way back yet, not 100 percent, but will have an entire week to heal a little bit more. We’ll see where she is at and where she is comfortable. Our lineup could change a couple times in the next week, but we’ll put the best lineup out there for the sectional.”
The JV game had Northridge ring up a 25-7, 25-23 win over Wawasee. Northridge (15-5) were led by a combined 18 assists from Emily Barkow and Carlee Christner and eight kills from Chloe Schmucker. Wawasee (13-10) had 15 digs from Paige Hlutke and five kills from Mikala Mawhorter.
Northridge will use this weekend’s Penn Invitational to prepare for the tough 4A Sectional 4 at Northridge and a semi-final game against Purdue recruit Azariah Stahl and Elkhart Central.
“Our conference is pretty tough, and we were a little out of system in the first couple of sets which took us some time to get into the rhythm. But I was a little surprised at how tonight went,” said Northridge head coach Jodie Steele. “We are very excited for sectionals. Elkhart Central has a really good team, so tonight and Saturday (at the Penn Invite) should get us ready for the sectional.”Wawasee, as with Northridge, have a bye until the semis of the 3A Fairfield Sectional, but face a stingy Tippecanoe Valley team (12-13 overall) that took Wawasee out in a heart-stopping five-game win the first match of the season. With nine days to prepare for the rematch, and ultimately a ticket to the finals, its live and learn from Thursday but survive and advance in the tournament.
The remainder of the 3A Sectional 21 draw at Fairfield will have Northeast Corner Conference rivals West Noble and Lakeland meet in game one Thursday at 6 p.m., followed by the marquee matchup, No. 7 Fairfield and No. 11 NorthWood. The winners from Thursday play in game one Saturday at 11 a.m., with Wawasee and Tippy to follow. The championship is set for 5 p.m.
“They shouldn’t take anything negative from this match, but focus on the whole of the season,” Phillips said, detailing a handful of team goals, one of which is win sectional. “We still have the opportunity, with our draw, to beat Valley and see what happens. If we come out and we are ready to go, you never know.”