GOSHEN – The 2014 season came to a close for the Wawasee volleyball team Saturday afternoon in the semi-final round of the Fairfield Sectional. While the Lady Warriors left it all on the court, there will still be a bad taste in the player’s mouths after letting several opportunities slip away.
Wawasee watched Northern Lakes Conference foe NorthWood advance to the sectional title with a 3-0 sweep of the Lady Warriors despite Wawasee carrying the momentum through most of the first two games.
“Fighting hard is okay, except when you think you’re going to win,” Wawasee head coach Jeff Phillips stated after the game. “The girls are allowed to be more upset about this one because they went in thinking they were going to win.
“The last few years it’s been about getting the right draw in order to feel god about sectional week. This year we knew we could compete with anyone in the tournament, that’s a new feeling for this program.”
Wawasee certainly showed that it was ready to compete with a Lady Panther squad that it had lost to 3-1 just a few weeks back. The Lady Warriors held an early 10-5 lead in the first game and would battle late in the set only to watch NorthWood steal a 25-23 victory.
The second game was nearly identical to the first. Wawasee took an early lead only to watch it slowly disappear. The Lady Warriors seemed primed to claim a win late, but once again it was NorthWood that would find a way to win, once again 25-23.
The Lady Warriors just could not find a way to close out games. At times Wawasee was hitting on all cylinders. The team totaled 10.5 blocks in Saturday’s three sets, six of those came from junior Liz Hardy. Serving was not much of an issue, outside of a few hiccups, Alli Ousley led the team with three aces. Ousley added a team-high 24 assists to her stat line as well.
The biggest issue for Wawasee was NorthWood’s ability to put together big runs. Wawasee struggled to break up the runs and ultimately paid for it in the end. The third game saw NorthWood take the lead early and still manage to close it out to complete the sweep with a 25-19 victory.
“We’ve played a lot of really close matches all year,” began NorthWood head coach Hilary Laidig. “Our girls know how to handle those situations and they do a great job at remaining calm and not getting rattled. This is the result of staying calm.”
Wawasee (18-16) will graduate three seniors, Ousley, Paige Hlutke and Aly Anderson. All three have been a big part of the program since their freshmen campaign. Anderson led the team with 21 digs. Hlutke was second on the team with 2.5 blocks. Phillips knows the three helped to shape the program for the better in their time at Wawasee.
“Those girls have seen the change over the past four years,” remarked Phillips. “We went from a team that struggled to win big matches and would hope for a good draw in the sectional a team that, this year, beat a few ranked teams and didn’t care about the draw it got in the postseason. We also won our invite this year, that’s something that had not been done in a while.
“It’s nice for them to feel that change before they leave and not just hear it from people. They got to see that mindset change, they were a big part of why it changed.”
NorthWood will play 10-time defending sectional champion Fairfield at 6 p.m. tonight at Fairfield High School. The Falcons downed NorthWood in five sets earlier this season.