WARSAW – Nothing has come easy for the Warsaw volleyball team this season.
That was the case once again Thursday night for the Tigers.
Warsaw started strong and finished just fast enough in the end in outlasting Plymouth for a 3-2 Northern Lakes Conference win in the Tiger Den.
The hosts won the marathon match 25-11, 22-25, 25-22, 23-25, 15-11 over the pesky Pilgrims.
Warsaw was like a Yo-Yo Thursday night, up and down.
The Tigers showed moments of brilliance in the match, coupled with times of consistently, inconsistent play.
That’s been the M.O. all season for the Tigers, who improve to 8-4 overall and 2-2 in the NLC.
Warsaw went 27-6 a year ago, including winning the NLC at 7-0. The Tigers graduated five seniors from that team, but have seven seniors this season.
The Tigers had lost four of their last six matches prior to Thursday night. Warsaw had 12 service errors and 25 hitting errors Tuesday night in a 3-0 loss at Columbia City.
“Hopefully, we found something tonight to build some positives on,” said Warsaw coach Mike Howard, who has tinkered with his lineup all season in hopes of finding something that will work consistently.
“You get a reputation that if you fight back against us that we don’t fight back. That’s been our pattern this year in pressure situations. We have really nice kids.”
The Tigers welcomed back senior Laura Craig Thursday night and it was a good thing. Craig, who missed the last three matches (in which her team went 1-2) with an ankle injury, got the hosts going early on.
“Laura gave us a huge lift in the beginning of the match tonight,” Howard said. “I also thought Jordyn (Lindeman) gave us a lift too. She gave us a different look. Katie (Voelz) was a presence at the net blocking for us and that was big. She’s a great offensive player.”
“We said tonight that effort would become contagious. I still think we had selective effort, not consistent effort. We did have better swings and did some things better. But, we struggled passing the ball tonight and we haven’t done that all year. We just don’t continue to assert pressure on teams.”
The Tigers, behind hitting from Craig and Katie Voelz, rolled in game one. The Pilgrims trailed 20-19 in game two before getting key hits late from Hunter Stevens to even the match.
Warsaw prevailed in a close third set. The hosts led 19-14 before Plymouth rallied to tie it at 21-21. Craig then had a gorgeous tip kill and junior Voelz put up a big block for a clutch point and added a fine tip kill of her own to lift Warsaw to the win.
Plymouth bolted to a 13-6 lead in game four as the Tigers passing went South once again. The hosts showed plenty or resolve though to rally back for a 23-22 lead late. Lacy Poczik and Stevens then came up with kills for the Pilgrims and Warsaw was whistled for an in the net violation for the final Plymouth point.
Voelz, one of the key returnees from a year ago, was a difference maker in the final set. The talented junior middle blocker started the game with a couple of key blocks as Warsaw built a 9-6 lead. Plymouth rallied within 9-8 and Howard took a timeout. A couple of Plymouth attack errors gave the Tigers breathing room again and Voelz slammed a couple of big kills late, including the one for match point on a gorgeous slide move.
“I thought we adjust to some difficult balls with our offense,” said Howard. “We want to play fast and get a clean look, but we have to play the ball high to Katie. We struggled with that at times tonight due to our problems passing the ball.”
Voelz slammed down 25 kills to pace the Warsaw offense. Senior Emily Poe powered down 16 kills for the winners. Craig added a dozen kills and Celia Heckert had six.
Voelz also controlled play at the net with a team-high five blocks for the Tigers. Setter Megan Chauncey had 60 assists in the win and Jordyn Lindeman led the Tigers with two aces.
Craig and Poe each had 18 digs to pace the defense for Warsaw. Heckert had 15 digs and Marie West 11.
Warsaw won the junior varsity match 25-18, 20-25, 15-11.
Courtney Steffensmeier led the Warsaw JV attack with 10 kills. Kenzie Welk had seven kills and Emily Bailey four for the winners. Cassie Hoag had 13 assists and Kendra Burns 10. Blake McGarvey led the defense with 13 digs, while Caroline Mayer had 11 and Welk six. Burns had three aces, McGarvey and Mayer two each and Hoag one. Bailey led with four blocks and Welk had one.
The Warsaw freshman team made it a clean sweep for the hosts Thursday night by topping Plymouth 25-16, 25-10. The Tiger frosh team improves to 13-4 on the season.
The Tigers will play in the Michigan City Invitational Saturday. Warsaw then hosts NLC foe Wawasee next Thursday for a Pink Out match.