GOSHEN – The quarterfinal round of the 2014 Fairfield Volleyball Sectional 21 continued Thursday night and a budding rivalry added a fantastic new chapter to its history.
Tippecanoe Valley and Wawasee have met six times since 2011 leading up to Thursday’s sectional show down. The previous six matches all took five games to decide and that trend continued as the Lady Warriors avoided elimination with a thrilling 3-2 victory over the Lady Vikings.
After Valley dominated game one, 25-11, Wawasee looked commanding with victories in games two and three (25-20, 25-14). It was the evening’s fourth game that really started to make things interesting.
Wawasee found itself with a commanding 22-12 lead which was dwindled down to smaller, yet still favorable 24-17 lead. Needing just one point to closeout the Lady Vikes and advance to Saturday’s semi-final was apparently just too easy for the Lady Warriors. Valley stole victory from the death-grip of defeat to win the game 26-24 thanks to some clutch play by the team and brilliant serving by Jaden Biddle.
“I joked with them that I had seen girls come back from that kind of deficit before,” said Valley head coach Mallory Eaton. “Now I can say that I have actually seen a team do that. We’re a young team and winning that match took a lot of heart from our young girls and our veteran players. It’s so unfortunate that we lost.
“We were up in that fifth game and it just wasn’t meant to be to tonight. I’m so proud of these girls for their effort tonight. We proved that we don’t ever give up, it just went Wawasee’s way in the end.”
Game five was not really as exhilarating but it was still very entertaining as the two squads literally matched points for the entire game up to a 12-12 tie. Valley looked as if it would finally end the intense match when it took a 14-12 lead but Wawasee was not done and managed to pull it together for a 17-15 win to advance.
“We have to rely on a lot of different people in order to be successful,” began Wawasee head coach Jeff Phillips. “So, there’s not going to be one person that stands out for us, everyone had to come together as a team and pull this out and it’s good to see that we could do that.”
Phillips referenced his team’s serve receive as a key factor in getting the wins in games two and three. That was a question mark for the Lady Warriors coming in with the absence of Addison Ayres. Ayres tore her ACL in a contest against NorthWood on October 9 and underwent surgery Thursday. While Ayres was absent from the contest in body, she was present in spirit as one seat on the Wawasee bench was left empty. Attached to that seat was a picture of Ayres in her hospital bed holding a sign with a special message for her teammates.
A rematch with that NorthWood team will take place Saturday as the Panthers downed West Noble 3-0 in the second match of the evening. Wawasee fell 3-1 to the Panthers in that contest in which Ayres went down early in the first game. The two Northern Lakes Conference foes will start play at approximately 12:30 p.m. Fairfield and Lakeland will play in the first match of the day at 11 a.m. Saturday’s championship will be played at 5 p.m.