AKRON — There’s peaking at the right time, and then there’s what West Noble did at the Tippecanoe Valley Sectional Saturday.
The Chargers just got better and better as the day wore on, opening with a three-set semifinal win over NorthWood in the morning session and then building toward a 25-21, 25-11, 25-15 win over the host Lady Vikings in the final.
“It feels really good. It feels like everything that you work for is finally here, and it all paid off — all the hours that they put in, all the hours that our coaches put in,” said West Noble coach Kaija Kauffman of the championship, the program’s second in the past three years. “It feels really good.”
The opening set of the championship was nip-tuck at the start, and Valley was tied up with West Noble as late as 14-14. But West Noble used a 6-0 service run by senior outside hitter Madison Schermerhorn to grab a 20-14 advantage, then held off the Vikings to go up a set.
The Chargers rode that momentum to an 8-1 start in game two, and Valley never really got going on the way to the most lopsided set of the evening. The Vikings again trailed 8-1 early in the third. Back-to-back kills by Sophie Bussard and Makenzie Woodcox and a rotational fault by the Chargers cut Valley’s deficit to 9-6, but an 8-2 run by the visitors highlighted by a Schermerhorn kill and a Nichelle Phares ace pushed the advantage back to 17-8. Valley never quite recovered, and Schermerhorn closed it out with the last of her 24 kills for the match.
“They’ve always had a really great service game. That really got us out of sorts and then the Schermerhorn kid really came on, and when she gets going that really opens up a lot of doors for the other hitters,” said Valley coach Mallory Eaton. “She’s an exceptional hitter. She can really pick apart any defense, and I think that just got in our heads early and it was kind of hard to recover.”
“I think our swings picked up a little bit in our second set against Tippy Valley. I don’t know how well we clicked when we were playing against NorthWood, but it felt good after the first set in that Tippy Valley game. It felt like we were were finding swings and places on the court,” Kauffman said.
With its fourth-ever sectional championship, West Noble advances to the Norwell Regional opposite Bellmont in the late game, following the tournament-opener between Fort Wayne Bishop Dwenger and New Castle. Tippecanoe Valley closes its season at 18-16 coming up a step short of a program-first sectional title. All told, the Vikings now bid farewell to a total of nine seniors, a class that includes season and career service leader Shayleigh Shriver, another all-time great in Bussard, who became the first player to reach both 1,000 digs and 1,000 kills in Valley’s semifinal win over Lakeland, as well as Hannah Jansma, Marlea Myers, Sarah Myers, Anna Walters, Kennedie Brooks, Rachael Randall and Hannah Durkes.
“Those particular seniors changed this program and so much for the better, so I owe a lot to those kids and how much time, blood, sweat and tears they put into this because they’ve really made volleyball relevant here again,” said Eaton. “I know tonight and this season wasn’t necessarily what they hoped it would be, but I told them it’s so much more than that. This program used to be nonexistent. We’re by no means a powerhouse, but we’re inching toward where we want to be and they were the catalysts for that.”