WARSAW – The Warsaw volleyball team ended a decade of dominance by Elkhart Memorial in the Northern Lakes Conference a season ago.
You better believe that the Crimson Chargers had a pretty good memory when it came time for the regular-season rematch Thursday night.
Memorial, which has enjoyed tremendous success, including in the state tournament, under longtime coach Jacquie Rost, put a little payback on the Tigers in the NLC lid lifter for both teams.
The Crimson Chargers, who saw their 76-match conference win streak snapped at home no less by Warsaw 3-2 in 2012, posted a 3-1 win in the Tiger Den Thursday night.
Memorial, which had not played in a week, used level play to thwart the defending NLC champion Tigers 26-24, 10-25, 25-17, 25-18.
The Crimson Chargers, who did sideline Warsaw 3-1 in a sectional semifinal a year ago, simply outplayed the hosts with a much more efficient and consistent effort from start to finish.
Both teams sport a vastly different look than in 2012. Warsaw lost five seniors from its’ 27-6 team, including top hitter Jamie Lacheta, setter Chloe Hubner and libero Alex Sanchez. Memorial graduated six seniors from a 19-18 team that lost to Penn in the regional.
“They played harder than we did,” said Warsaw coach Mike Howard after a lengthy post game chat with his team. “That’s very disappointing. They had 3-4 players on the floor.
“The theme of the night was unforced errors for us. We can’t find a rhythm offensively and there’s a clear pattern there. We don’t know who to get the ball to right now to get a big swing. We are struggling when pressure is applied to us.”
Memorial took the first set by a 26-24 final to take the early momentum. Warsaw had a 24-23 lead before two kills by sophomore Darrian Mowery and a lift call on the Tigers gave the guests the win.
The Tigers absolutely overwhelmed Memorial in the second set. Senior Laura Craig, who played at Northridge a year ago, served 12 straight points as the hosts rolled to a 25-10 win.
“I was really proud of the girls with how they came back after imploding in that second set,” said Rost, who has guided Memorial to the State Finals four times, including Class 4-A runner-up finishes in both 2007 and 2009. “We served tougher as the match went on and our defense and serve reception improved. I just told them it was 0-0 after set two and let that go.”
Memorial regained the momentum quickly in set three by taking an 8-0 lead en route to a 25-17 win. The fourth set was back and forth before Memorial pulled away behind senior Chelsea Bettis and Mowery. The Chargers took the 1:40 match on a kill by Jill Brown to end it.
“It’s always intense when we play Warsaw and we knew that it would be tonight,” Rost said. “I always stress keep your composure and focus on technique and that typically wins in the end. It was huge in this gym to win game one and it felt good to win in four. I didn’t want it to go five games here.”
“Chelsea was huge tonight. She’s our emotional leader and can do some dynamic things. She has to get the ball for us. I was very pleased with Darrian. This is just an incredibly hard working team I have this year.”
Rost, whose team is now 2-1, said there is plenty of importance in regaining an NLC championship.
“The NLC does matter,” said Rost emphatically. “We talked about it and I got a lot of emails this week from a lot of former players. It matters to a lot of people who have played in our program.”
Warsaw, which lost 3-0 at home to Mishawaka Marian Monday (as did Memorial last week), drops to 5-2.
“We struggle still understanding the plan,” said Howard. “Overall, we passed relatively well tonight, but broke down in important parts of the match. We hit right into their block. For us, we have to figure out a lineup that will function when the pressure is on.”
Bettis led Memorial with 13 kills and just one attack error. Mowery had 10 kills with no errors, while Tailor Schultheis and Ally Roskos each had seven kills. Junior setter Tori Mills had 38 assists. Madison Robison and three aces and Roskos two. Roskos led Memorial with 18 digs, while Claire Welter had 17 and Kaylin Szucs 13. The Chargers had a total of eight team blocks, led by Bettis with five assisted.
Junior Katie Voelz and senior Laura Craig each had 14 kills to lead the Tiger attack. Craig led the Tigers with four aces and Cassie Hoag had three. Setter Hoag also had 48 assists. Jordyn Lindeman and Chandler Stevens each had one block. Peyton Adamiec led the Tiger defense with 15 digs and Hoag added 11.
Memorial outlasted Warsaw 25-22, 22-25, 15-10 to win the junior varsity contest. The Chargers also captured the freshman match by a 25-24, 25-20 score. The Warsaw freshman team is now 2-1 overall and 0-1 in the NLC.
Memorial plays in the power-packed Mishawaka Invitational Saturday. The Chargers’ pool includes Carmel, Cathedral and Marian. Warsaw hosts NLC foe Goshen next Thursday.