LIGONIER – The 2013 season came to an unsatisfying close for the Whitko volleyball team on Tuesday night.
Whitko had what could probably best be described as an off-night and that would lead to a 3-1 defeat at the hands of West Noble and a first round exit of the Class 3-A West Noble Sectional.
“We lacked a lot of confidence out there,” stated Whitko head coach Brandy Smith. “We were not hitting the ball with a lot of confidence and we just did not play our best game tonight.”
Whitko had just defeated West Noble Oct. 12 in the Whitko Invitational in a two game sweep (25-21, 26-25) but the Chargers brought an entirely different attack this time, one that the Wildcats were just not ready for.
West Noble took an early 11-3 lead in the first game and would use it for a dominant 25-15 victory to open up the match. The Wildcats responded with their best performance of the night in the second game as the team rallied to take a 25-22 victory.
The change in enthusiasm on the Whitko bench was noticeable heading into the third game but the Chargers did not let the high spirits of Whitko keep them down. West Noble held off a late surge by the Wildcats to claim a 25-21 victory in the third game putting Whitko in a must-win scenario in the fourth game.
Unfortunately for the Wildcats and their fans, there was just not enough left in the tank for Whitko. Despite scratching and clawing their way through the fourth game, the momentum and shear will power from West Noble was too much to overcome as the Chargers closed out the match with a 25-19 win to advance in the sectional.
“We wanted to show Whitko what West Noble volleyball was really about,” said Charger head coach Danielle Powell. “When we played them last it was in the third game of a tournament and we were tired and beat down and did not play a great game so tonight we wanted to show them what we could really do and of course it helped that we were at home in front of a great crowd.”
The Chargers (7-27) advance to Saturday’s semi-final against Tippecanoe Valley at 11 a.m. Valley Swept the Chargers 25-21, 25-20, 25-12 in the regular season back on Aug. 22.
While Whitko had a disappointing finish to its season, Smith chose to focus on the positives for the night.
“This was obviously not how we wanted to end things, but this was an epic season for us,” said Smith. The Wildcats had their best season since 1998 finishing with a 9-25 mark for 2013.
“I really just told them to be proud of what they had accomplished this season,” added Smith. “We are only moving forward from here.”
Senior Whitney Hobbs led Whitko Tuesday night with 11 kills to go with four aces and three blocks. Junior Maddie Gawthrop had eight kills, 14 digs and three blocks for the Wildcats. Junior setter Elaine Warner had 32 assists, 16 digs and three aces.
West Noble was led by the two seniors on its’ sectional roster. Rachel Schermerhorn had 11 kills and 17 digs and Kelsie Peterson had 27 digs, 17 assists and three kills.
The West Noble Sectional continues Thursday night with defending champion Fairfield versus Wawasee at 6 p.m., followed by NorthWood versus Lakeland. The action Saturday has Valley versus West Noble at 11 a.m. in the first semifinal, to be followed by the Thursday night winners in the second semifinal match. The championship contest is Saturday at 5 p.m.