DUNLAP – The Warsaw volleyball team took its first test of the postseason Thursday night.
The Tigers absolutely aced it.
Warsaw used an outstanding serving performance, featuring an ample amount of aces, to rout Elkhart Central 3-0 in the opening match of the Class 4-A Concord Sectional.
Blake McGarvey was simply sensational behind the service line for Warsaw. The junior had six of her team’s 14 aces in a dominating display in besting the Blue Blazers 25-10, 25-12, 25-14.
Warsaw, now 28-5, advances to play host Concord Saturday at 10 a.m. in the first semifinal. No. 9 Elkhart Memorial (25-8) then faces Goshen (14-17) in the second semifinal. The winners return to McCuen Gym at 7 p.m. Saturday to play for the sectional title and the right to host a regional match on Tuesday.
Concord defeated Northridge 25-21, 25-18, 25-17 in Thursday’s night’s second matchup. Concord improves to 24-9 on the season, while the Raiders are done at 15-18.
The Tigers defeated Concord 3-0 in their regular-season conference match two weeks ago at Warsaw. Concord did edge Warsaw 2-1 in the Michigan City Invitational earlier this season.
Central, which upended six-time defending sectional champion Elkhart Memorial behind the play of superstar Azariah Stahl (now a freshman at Purdue) to claim the sectional title in 2013, finishes at 15-14.
Warsaw coach Mike Howard said the goal was simple for his team.
“Tonight was all about winning and moving on,” said Howard matter-of-factly following the easy victory. “It’s the postseason. You never know how a match is going to go.”
The Tigers made sure the match was going to go their way from the get go Thursday evening. Warsaw, which did not play Central during the regular season, dominated early.
Warsaw led 3-1 early on in the opening set.
The diminutive junior with the big right arm served 13 straight points, including a trio of aces, to set the tone in making it 16-1. Star senior Katie Voelz and junior standout Jordyn Lindeman dominated at the net for the Tigers.
“Blake was awesome,” said Howard of her serving performance. “She was back to doing what she has been doing most of the season for us. She had her rhythm back.
“We served the crap out of the ball. We have six strong servers back there and that puts pressure on the other team.”
The second set was tied early at 6-6 before Cassie Hoag sparked Warsaw on a 5-0 run to lead 11-6. The Blue Blazers rallied to tie it at 12-12 before the Tigers used a 13-0 run to close the second game. Voelz came up big in the stretch with several monster kills with no blocking challenge by Central and Peyton Adamiec ended the set with an ace.
The final set was close early at 6-4 before the Tigers took charge again. Warsaw built a 20-10 lead before Howard went to a plethora of subs off his bench down the stretch. Kenzie Welk ended the match in just over an hour with a tip kill for the final point.
Howard still refused to acknowledge his team, despite the fact that it beat both Concord 3-0 and Elkhart Memorial 3-2 in NLC head-to-head play in the regular season, as the team to beat. The Tigers last sectional title came in 2004 and Warsaw has lost to perennial power Memorial in the sectional semifinals each of the past two seasons.
“We see ourselves as an underdog,” Howard said without hesitation. “I don’t know if we are the team to beat. Memorial is the team that has won so many sectionals.
“We are looking to break through and taste posteseason success. Tonight was about moving on. We know there are going to be two tough matches on Saturday.”
Howard was pleased with the consistency of play of his team, which has just two seniors.
“We wanted to focus in on us and play our system tonight,” said Howard. “I wanted us to maintain our level of play after such a great start and we did that for the most part.
“We respect all of our opponents. Tonight, it was just about us playing consistent and winning this first match and staying injury free. And we did that.”
Voelz was dynamite for the Tigers with 15 kills to go with a team-high 13 digs.
Lindeman continued her stellar play up front for Warsaw. The underrated junior middle blocker had six kills to go with three blocks.
Sophomore Cassie Hoag had five kills to go with 26 assists in directing the fine-tuned Warsaw offense from her setter position.
Junior libero Adamiec had 12 digs to go with four aces. Junior Caroline Mayer also had 12 digs and freshman Alexie Day had two aces.