MIDDLEBURY – The Warsaw volleyball team continues to be a work in progress this season.
The Tigers found out Tuesday night that there’s still plenty of work to be done to make the progress that is needed to be a contender.
Warsaw, the defending Northern Lakes Conference champion, faced its second tough league test of the 2013 campaign versus Northridge.
The host Raiders simply outplayed the Tigers to the tune of a 25-18, 25-13, 25-17 victory.
Warsaw, which won the NLC at 7-0 in 2012, just had no answers for the Raiders.
Northridge, which the Tigers could also see in the sectional at season’s end, improves to 12-3 overall and starts NLC play with a huge home win. Warsaw drops to 6-3 overall and 1-2 in league play.
The Tigers, who lost five stellar seniors from last year’s 27-6 team, still are looking for an identity this fall.
Warsaw coach Mike Howard, who tinkered with his lineup Tuesday night, sees a troubling pattern emerging with his talented team.
“We just were not ready to play again tonight and I’ll take the blame,” said Howard. “We’ve tried a variety of approaches in practice and none seem to be working. It’s back to the drawing board for us.”
The Tigers shot themselves in the foot in the opening set with four service errors and a pair of critical in the net violations. The host Raiders, who have now won five in a row, never trailed in the first game.
“We made costly serving errors and we still lack defensive intensity,” Howard stated. They just hit the ball harder and were scrappier on defense. That seems to be a theme of teams we play.”
The second set was close early as it was tied 7-7. From there, it was all Northridge as Morgan Miller got in the swing of things. The lethal lefty, one of six seniors for coach Jodie Steele’s squad, dominated as the Raiders rolled.
Warsaw, which lost to Elkhart Memorial in the NLC opener and then beat Goshen, could not get the momentum back in the final set. The Tigers were hurt again by key service errors and too much Morgan Miller and sophomore Kelly Miller for the hosts.
“It’s a lack of execution and a lack of a will to win on our part,” Howard remarked. “It’s an internal thing that it has to be a collective will to win.
“We’re searching for an identity and something we can hang our hat on. We’re just not adapting well and can’t consistently make plays right now. This is a skill game and we’re just not polished enough.
“I thought we would be good this year. I thought we could play fast and be dynamic. Maybe it will just take us a while. I don’t know right know. This is a new place. We’ve never struggled like this since I’ve been here.”
Warsaw was without senior Laura Craig Tuesday night. The outside hitter, who played for Northridge last year, injured her ankle in practice Saturday. Craig is expected to be out at least a week.
Senior Emily Poe and junior Taylor Jagger each had seven kills to lead the Warsaw offense Tuesday night. Junior Celia Heckert had four. Heckert led the defense with seven digs and Poe added six. Junior Megan Chauncey had 11 assists, an ace and two blocks, while junior Katie Voelz had two blocks, Sophomore Jordyn Lindeman an ace and sophomore Cassie Hoag five assists for the Tigers.
Morgan Miller was terrific for the winning Raiders. She had 11 kills to go with 16 assists, 12 digs and two aces. Senior Annie Bachman powered 11 kills to go with two aces and 13 digs for the Raiders. Senior Taylor Coulter and sophomore Kelly Miller each had five blocks, while junior Brittanie Helgeson had two aces. Junior Carlee Christner had 11 assists and senior Hannah Kistler seven. Kistler also had a team-high 14 digs.
The Tigers have now lost to Class 3-A No. 2 Mishawaka Marian 3-0, Memorial 3-1 and Northridge 3-0.
Warsaw will host the Class 4-A sectional at season’s end which will include both defending champion Memorial and Northridge.
The Raiders have lost to Mishawaka, South Bend St. Joseph and Elkhart Central this fall.
Northridge started on the right foot Tuesday night as its junior varsity team topped the Tigers 25-21, 25-10.
Warsaw hosts East Noble Wednesday. The Raiders entertain Westview Thursday evening.