The Warsaw volleyball team has overcome all kinds of obstacles this fall to put together a stellar season.
It’s only fitting in that context of being tested that the Tigers will need to take the long and tough road to the program’s first sectional championship in a decade.
Warsaw, 27-5, opens postseason play Thursday night versus Elkhart Central in the opener of the Class 4-A Concord Sectional.
“I’m okay with our draw,” said Warsaw coach Mike Howard. “It’s probably fitting this year that we have to take the long path with everything that we have had to deal with this season.”
Howard knows his well-balanced and tight-knit group is in a good spot to win the sectional crown for the first time since 2004. The Tigers will have to beat defending champion Central, then likely host Concord and rival Elkhart Memorial to earn the sectional title. Warsaw did not play Central, lost 2-1 to Concord in a tourney, but then beat them 3-0 in their NLC match and won 3-2 at Memorial back in August.
“We are one of the teams to beat,” Howard said, using coach speak to deny that his team is the odds-on favorite on paper based on regular-season results. “We’re performing at a high level right now. The big thing is that we have more balance this year and a different mindset with this team.
“But Concord is very dangerous. They have the weapons. Memorial is playing well and they will be ready to go on Saturday. They are tough to put out at this time of year.”
Warsaw has lost to Memorial in sectional play each of the past two seasons. The Crimson Chargers, who do not play until Saturday, had won six straight sectional titles until losing to Central and superstar Azariah Stahl last year.
Howard has seen his young team (only two seniors) grow and preservere through injuries and even his back surgery, which sidelined him at the start of the season.
“What we have been through this year has helped us to believe and has galvanized us together,” said Howard. “It’s about chemistry, belief and system play. This team is close to having all of those.
“The sectional will come down to being unselfish defensively, going to the floor for balls, and playing every point the whole way through. We have to match the intensity of our opponents. It’s going to be about how much grit you have. How tough you are.”
Memorial, which is ranked No. 9 in this week’s Class 4-A poll, sits at 25-8. Coach Jacquie Rost’s team beat No. 5 Carmel Saturday in a tourney at Carmel. The Chargers drew the bye at Concord and will play Goshen in a semifinal match on Saturday.
Warriors, Trojans Prepared To Play
Wawasee will look to turn the tables in the sectional at Fairfield.
The Warriors, who are 17-15, play Tippecanoe Valley Thursday in the Class 3-A sectional. Wawasee dropped a 3-2 final to the Vikings back in the season opener as Valley won the final three sets.
Wawasee did lose middle blocker Addison Ayres to a knee injury in a recent match versus NorthWood. Meghan Fretz, who missed the Valley match due to injury, has stepped in and played well of late for the Warriors.
“It’s nice, we think we can stack up against every team in our sectional this year,” said Wawasee coach Jeff Phillips. “In previous years, we may not have been able to say that. Obviously, Addison’s injury hurt our flow that we had going into the sectional but we answered some of those questions against Triton about whether or not we can play at that level. We drew Valley which is good and bad. it’s a match that we know that in the last four years has taken five games or has been crazy back and forth. So, you start out with that and if we beat them then we go against probably NorthWood and we lost Addison against them before and we took a game from them without her so we already feel confident going into the match.”
“The first match against Valley we played well the first two games but collapsed the last three, but that was the first match of the season and there are things we’ve fixed since then. Then you look and you say that you’re probably going to get Fairfield. We’ve lost to all three of these teams but none of them blew us out of the building. The three teams we would probably play are all revenge matches and if we can play well then we probably have a good chance at taking the trophy. That’s something that we didn’t have as an expectation or a goal in previous years. So, that’s nice to tell the girls that if you play really well that you have a chance to win, which is a big deal.”
Valley will present a formidable foe for the Warriors. Coach Mallory Eaton’s team, led by senior star and do-it-all performer Caylie Teel, is 18-12.
Area Sectional Pairings
Oct. 23: 5:30 p.m.: Match 1: Elkhart Central vs. Warsaw
Oct. 23: Match 2: Northridge vs. Concord
Oct. 25: 10 a.m. Match 3: Match 1 winner vs. Match 2 winner
Oct. 25: Match 4: Goshen vs. Elkhart Memorial
Oct. 25: 7 p.m.: Match 5: Championship
Oct. 21: 7 p.m.: Match 1: Fairfield vs. Whitko
Oct. 23: 6 p.m.: Match 2: Tippecanoe Valley vs. Wawasee
Oct. 23: Match 3: West Noble vs. NorthWood
Oct. 25: 11 a.m.: Match 4: Lakeland vs. Match 1 winner
Oct. 25: Match 5: Match 2 winner vs. Match 3 winner
Oct. 25: 5 p.m.: Match 6: Championship
Oct. 23: 6:30 p.m.: Match 1: LaCrosse vs. Triton
Oct. 23: 8 p.m.: Match 2: Argos vs. South Central
Oct. 25: 11 a.m.: Match 3: Match 1 winner vs. Match 2 winner
Oct. 25: 12:30 p.m.: Match 4: Culver vs. Oregon-Davis
Oct. 25: 7 p.m.: Match 5: Championship
At Fort Wayne Blackhawk Christian
Oct. 21: 6 p.m.: Match 1: Elkhart Christian Academy vs. Hamilton
Oct. 21: Match 2: FW Blackhawk vs. Lakewood Park
Oct. 23: 6 p.m.: Match 3: Match 1 winner vs. Match 2 winner
Oct. 23: Match 4: Lakeland Christian Academy vs. Bethany Christian
Oct. 25: 10 a.m.: Match 5: Championship