DUNLAP – Warsaw volleyball coach Mike Howard, prior to the start of the sectional, called Concord a “dangerous” team.
Unfortunately for the Tigers, Howard was right on the mark with his assessment.
The hosts had the most Saturday morning as Concord clipped Warsaw 3-0 in a sectional semifinal match of the Class 4-A Concord Sectional.
The Minutemen sidelined their conference counterparts by a 25-12, 26-24, 25-22 final.
“Concord played well and we struggled today,” said Howard. “They came out and started fast and applied pressure to us and we just could not deal with it.
“They did what we thought they would do. We just struggled to communicate defensively and made a lot of hitting errors today.
“We knew they were a dangerous team. They played well. They served tough, defended well and made the key plays when they needed them. They were resilient, especially in that second game when we had the lead late.”
Concord (25-9) advanced to play No. 9 Elkhart Memorial (26-8) for the sectional title at 7 p.m. Saturday back in McCuen Gym. The sectional winner will then host a regional match Tuesday night versus the winner of the South Bend Clay Sectional.
Memorial defeated Goshen 3-0 in the second semifinal Saturday. The Crimson Chargers edged past league foe Concord 3-2 in a match played at Memorial back on Sept. 11.
Memorial has won seven sectional titles overall, including a string of six straight that was snapped last year by Elkhart Central. Concord owns eight sectional championships overall with the last one coming back in 1999.
Concord started strong Saturday in the third meeting of the season between the pair of Northern Lakes Conference foes. The hosts took game one before the Tigers regrouped. Warsaw led 22-20 in pivotal game two before Concord rallied for the win and control of the match.
Concord, under the direction of first-year coach Kelly Hale, was led by Gabby Staggs. The standout is one of six seniors for Concord.
The Tigers, who were bidding for their first sectional title since 2004, beat Concord 29-27, 30-28, 25-17 in their regular-season NLC match at Warsaw on Oct. 9. Concord did top the Tigers 2-1 in a pool play match in the Michigan City Invitational back on Sept/. 20.
Warsaw, which won the NLC title at 7-0 this season, finishes its season at 28-6.
It was a frustrating end to another fabulous season for the Tigers. Warsaw has now been eliminated in the sectional semifinal round each of the last three seasons.
“It’s incredibly frustrating,” said Howard of being sidelined. “It’s just very disheartening and very, very sad for our players with the amount of work they have put into it this year. I don’t think anyone expected us to have the kind of season we did.
“The process of breaking through to win in the postseason is taking longer than I or the kids or our fans want it to. But, we have to use this as another learning year and improve and go forward and improve as coaches.”
The Tigers say good-bye to a pair of outstanding seniors in Katie Voelz and Celia Heckert.
Warsaw should return a very strong group next season, led by current juniors Jordyn Lindeman, Caroline Mayer, Courtney Steffensmeier and Peyton Adamiec and sophomore Cassie Hoag.
The Tiger junior varsity team went 23-2 this season, while the freshman squad was 21-9.