SYRACUSE – It was not the send off they were hoping for.
Three Wawasee seniors played on their home court for the final time on Thursday night. The seniors took the floor with smiles and aspirations of claiming their first conference win of the year but left with tears after falling short of a victory. Wawasee was bested in four games by visiting NorthWood 18-25, 25-17, 20-25, 12-25 in Syracuse.
After NorthWood pulled away to win the first set, Wawasee used a 6-0 start in the second set to even the match at 1-1.
The Panthers jumped out to a big lead in the third set thanks to some errors on Wawasee’s side of the net. The Warriors looked to be sitting ducks in the set but senior Hunter Gaerte served six consecutive points to pull the Warriors back into the game before ultimately falling 20-25. Gaerte led the team with two aces and also had 21 digs.
Fellow seniors Lydia Katsaropoulos and Kasey Napier also found themselves near the top of the stat list. Napier led the team with two one and a half blocks and added 18 digs while Katsaropoulos had 11 kills and led the team with 22 digs. Sophomore Addison Ayres led the team with 12 kills.
Wawasee played its fourth straight match without starting setter Alli Ousely who has been out with a concussion. The loss of Ousley has effected the consistency of the team on the court but sophomore Tia Long has done a fine job filling in for the injured junior. Long led the team with 34 assists on Thursday.
Wawasee head coach Jeff Phillips thought his team may have played its been game since the loss of Ousley, “Tonight felt better then the last few matches. We played a better team tonight than we have recently. They have a good record and good players, so it is a challenge anyways. But overall this felt better.
“We did more things right, we did things more consistently, still playing with a backup setter. Tia (Long) has filled in admirably but there are only so many things that she is comfortable doing. That is really just because of a lack of reps. She only has a few games of varsity experience. But, again, she has done a great job in a tough spot and we should hopefully get Alli (Ousley) back soon.”
Though the Warriors dropped the fourth set, there was a nice moment for the Warrior seniors and fans. With the game out of reach for Wawasee, losing 23-9, Phillips called a timeout and brought his three seniors off the court at Wawasee High School for the last time. The seniors walked off to a standing ovation from their friends and family. A well-deserved thank you for the work that the three have done for Phillips and the program.
“I obviously would not have done that had the score have been tighter. But in that situation I did that because I wanted to recognize these girls for what they have done for this program. They have made a big impact on our team since they have gotten here and this is really the first year that they have been able to play together as a class. They leave here with a lot of admiration having helped change the culture here at Wawasee,” Phillips said of his graduating class.
Wawasee (14-15, 0-6) will travel to Bourbon on Tuesday night to take on Triton before closing out its regular season in Middlebury next Thursday for the NLC finale versus Northridge.
In the junior varsity match NorthWood won 25-15, 25-10 to beat Wawasee. Seaquinn Bright led the JV Warriors with five kills and seven digs.