BOURBON – Tuesday night’s volleyball matchup between Wawasee and host Triton had all the makings of a huge upset just days before the state tournament begins. But something awoke in the hearts of the Lady Warriors, and just in the nick of time as Wawasee survived a five-game thriller 22-25, 23-25, 25-23, 25-23, 15-7.
The scores don’t begin to tell the tale of just how lopsided the match really was in favor of a Triton team looking to add a banner win to its tournament résumé. And the win doesn’t elude to just how important the win was for Wawasee, needing anything to cling to after arriving in Bourbon on a nine-game losing streak and facing the wall on several occasions against a very potent Triton side.
Games one and two were a mixture of Wawasee errors – notably three service errors and a pair of defensive errors in game one that allowed Triton to pull away late – and big plays from Triton. Taking the lead on two occasions late in game two on aces from Jaela Meister and Becca Kennedy, Wawasee still managed to knot the score at 23 after a Triton attack error. But an illegal hit from the Lady Warriors followed by a kill from Meister to end the game put Triton up 2-0 with a magnetic pull of emotions from the swapping sides of the gym.
“I called a timeout in the first game and told the girls they looked like they didn’t think they were going to win,” noted Wawasee head coach Jeff Phillips, expressing his displeasure of his team’s play of late. “Obviously, we have had struggles and those types of things pile up. And when you lose to a couple of teams you haven’t lost to in a while, they get that bug in their head.”
As Phillips keeled over, hands on knees in disgust in game three and his team trailing 21-18, he would get his seniors to somehow step up. Kasey Napier would rally Wawasee back to level at 23-23 with two aces, then close out the game with two more aces. Napier would finish with five aces on the night.
Click here to see Napier close out the third game.
Game four had Lydia Katsaropoulos step forward with three kills in the final third of the frame. A kill from Katsaropoulos down Broadway put Wawasee up 22-20. Two kills from Triton’s Emilee Koontz rallied the Lady Trojans to trail 24-23, but Katsaropoulos took three attempts on game point, hammering the first two right at Holly Stogsdill, who dug the chances. The third kill shot again was chased by Stogsdill, but the dig wasn’t able to be kept up. Katsaropoulos would finish the night leading the gym with 19 kills.
What was a completely dead Wawasee team, even in the third game, was all of a sudden very alive and smelling blood in the water.
“That’s kind of our M.O. for the year,” stated Triton head coach Samantha Keel. “We get ahead and we just can’t keep the lead.”
Wawasee opened with a 10-3 run in the final game and really never were threatened by the weary Lady Trojans. The momentum had completely shifted, and the mistakes for Triton piled up in the final stanza, committing 10 errors whether passing, serving or serve receiving which all amounted to Wawasee points. As Wawasee’s attempt at 14-7 was errantly passed by Triton for the final point, the mood became simple – the win felt like a loss to Phillips, but he’ll take it. The loss felt like a win to Keel, but, boy, would they loved to have won.
“To be honest, to lose in five to Wawasee tonight is a major accomplishment for little 1A Triton volleyball,” Keel said. “The end of our schedule is very rough. We have New Prairie, we have Jimtown, we have Plymouth, we have Wawasee. These big, huge schools and here we are teeny, tiny Triton, we built up the last three weeks with that and then we start our sectional next week with Argos, who we have already played three times.
“I take a match like this and I see it like a stepping stone to beating Argos,” continued Keel. “I see it as a stepping stone to beating South Central. I see it as a stepping stone to beat anyone in the sectional. Because if we can hang with the 3 and 4A schools, we should be able to hang with anyone in 1A.”
Phillips added from the evening’s proceedings, “You chalk up at the beginning of the season that this should be a victory in the whole scope of things and in the middle of the NLC season, this is one of those we should win. This is one where we have to have. One where we have to challenge ourselves to make sure when we get an opponent outside of the conference, that we need to do what we need to do to win. That’s where we earn our money as Wawasee volleyball that we reach our goals.”
Triton had a team effort on the stat sheet, with Lauren Hostrawser leading the way with 10 kills and four blocks while Koontz had seven kills and four aces. Meister would toss in six kills and three blocks, but her play at the net resulted in several points for Triton by forcing Wawasee to adjust its flight patterns.
Krystal Sellers hoisted 28 assists and added seven digs, Casey Scott added 16 digs and Kennedy finished with 10 kills.
Wawasee were led by 43 digs from Aly Anderson in yet another solid defensive showing in the back row. Hunter Gaerte added 31 digs and Tia Long continued to shine in a relief role as setter with 34 assists. Long has been in the position for the past two weeks as Alli Ousley recovers from a concussion. Ousley is expected to play in Wawasee’s final match Thursday at Northridge. Wawasee will then have a week to prepare to defeat 3A No. 7 Fairfield at the West Noble Sectional.
Triton will get another chance to take down an NLC power when it faces Plymouth Thursday night at home. The Lady Trojans will then shift focus to Argos in the Tuesday night sectional opener at Oregon-Davis. Triton already holds three wins over Argos this season.
In Tuesday night’s JV opener, Wawasee got an ace from Becca Anderson as the game-winner in a 25-24 game one win. A nice rally between the two teams at 19-16 had Wawasee take the point and an eventual 25-20 clincher. Anderson would have a huge night with eight aces, six digs, six kills and one block.