ELKHART – An entertaining first night of the Elkhart Memorial Volleyball Sectional had some interesting tie-ins in the first matchup and a wild slugfest in the nightcap. As the lights go out at Memorial Thursday night, Warsaw and Northridge have survived and advanced in the Class 4-A tournament.
WARSAW 3, GOSHEN 1
Warsaw was more than happy to move on, perhaps escape, its first round matchup against Goshen. A 25-13, 25-27, 25-19, 25-14 finish had Warsaw look vulnerable and Goshen look assertive, but also the other way around, and more of it for a Tiger squad that did what it had to do to move on.
It took a while for Warsaw to shake Goshen in game one, leading 15-10, but using a pair of service points from Katie Swanson and a kill from Betty Barnett to spearhead a 10-3 run to close out to first stanza. Goshen raced out to a 6-3 lead in game two, only for Warsaw to eventually settle in at 17-17. The back and forth continued, with the Tigers hooking a 23-23 tie after a Swanson kill, Kacy Bragg block and Goshen hitting error. But three straight serving errors by Warsaw put the Tigers on the wrong side of game two, raising the collective eyebrows of the cozy Memorial gymnasium.
“It just came down to errors,” said Goshen head coach Mike Howard, who coached at Warsaw through the 2015 season. “They were aggressive at the service line. It got us in trouble. They went on runs at important times and we just had trouble maintaining consistency in our play.”
Warsaw, which beat Goshen in a competitive 3-1 contest earlier this season, finally looked comfortable in the third. A 12-5 lead quickly escalated to a 21-12 bulge before Goshen showed any signs of life. Cora West was also establishing herself for the Tigers. As Goshen was taking away big hitters Kennedy Lauck and Barnett, West was free to swing and did herself some good. The freshman, whose dad, Doug, is Howard’s assistant with the Goshen staff, led Warsaw with a team-leading 11 kills.
West’s hammer to make it 22-11 in the fourth was the final nail.
“You’re torn with emotions both ways,” Howard, whose daughter, Haley, is on the RedHawks, said of the West conundrum. “You want your child to do well. Cora is a great kid and plays travel for us. You want to see her perform and be successful. But, on the other hand, you’ve got a job to do and you want to beat them. It takes a tiny bit of the sting of losing when you know they’re good kids on the other side of the net. As a competitor, disappointed when you lose when you want to beat them.”
Lauck would add 11 kills and seven blocks, Barnett wound up with nine kills and Swanson had eight kills. West added seven digs on the backline, which was at times shaky as a Warsaw unit, but had Liz Schmidt pick up 11 digs and Erin Peugh play admirably with seven digs off the bench. Bragg was masterful in setting up the attack with 40 assists and added a game-high eight blocks.
Goshen (23-10) had Brynn Shoup-Hill lead the team with 16 kills and Megan Gallagher offer 35 assists.
“We changed things a little bit,” Warsaw head coach Rick Ashmore said of the difference in the two Goshen contests. “Last time, Erin was our outside hitter, but she banged her foot up in the Penn game. I went with Cora, I thought she was doing a little better job.
“She’s a smart player,” Ashmore continued about West. “It was all week long, we had a battle to see who our other left would be. Allison Heinrich was a real close call. It was just a gut feeling that I went with Cora, although I have a lot of confidence in Allison.”
NORTHRIDGE 3, ELKHART CENTRAL 2
In the night’s second contest, Northridge and Elkhart Central left it on the court, with Northridge winning by the slimmest of margins at 25-14, 20-25, 15-25, 25-17, 16-14.
Molly Brown led the Raiders with 13 kills and Jaci Walker added 12 kills, advancing their club to the semi-finals of the Memorial tourney.
Warsaw (27-7) will take on Elkhart Memorial (17-17) in the first game of the Saturday semi-finals starting at 11 a.m. Northridge (8-23) will come back to take on Concord (4-26) in game two. The two winners will come back to the Memorial gym for a 7 p.m. championship.