LAPORTE – There is an old adage that it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish. That didn’t hold true for Warsaw’s volleyball team Saturday morning.
A sluggish and sloppy start to its first regional appearance in 14 years had the Lady Tigers fall behind 18-8 in game one and spend more energy than it had in a 3-1 loss to Michigan City in the morning semi-final of the Class 4-A LaPorte Volleyball Regional.
The combination of Warsaw’s unforced errors, which the Tigers committed 12 in the first 14 points City scored, along with some sluggish net play led the Wolves to a 25-17 game one win. City again started hot in game two, going up 5-0, and while Warsaw would eventually grab a 14-12 lead, the extra energy exerted for a team that was in its first regional in some time was starting to show.
“The fact that as a program we haven’t been to this level in a long time, it was a little bit of nerves,” Warsaw head coach Rick Ashmore said. “Surprisingly, the nerves came from our seniors, not our underclassmen. We made lots of unforced errors.”
Warsaw’s 21-18 lead in game two would be its biggest the rest of the day. The will of City’s Reece Shirley, who had a block, a tip and a kill in the final stretch of the second game, willed the Wolves to a 27-25 win. At that point, City’s cuppeth overflow, and Warsaw was on the ropes.
An epic game three saw two teams just going at it. Neither team led by more than two in the final third of the game, and Warsaw was serving for game point on four occasions before finally getting City to make an error in its attempt to tie it. Warsaw went to its big hitter, Katie Swanson on several occasions, and she came down with a pair of kills, but game point at 29-27 Warsaw had City’s Hannah Noveroske hit into the net.
The momentum swung to Warsaw, but a visibly worn out Tiger side quickly were running near ‘E’.
“We started off with six unforced errors and we’re fighting back from a hole again,” Ashmore said.
The 25-11 clincher for Michigan City was purely academic. City ran out to an 11-4 lead before Warsaw showed any sign of life. Deciding to let his kids fight it out, Ashmore could only sit back and watch as Shirley continued to take good swings and the Wolves defense dug out nearly everything Warsaw tried.
The run came to an end for Warsaw, which concludes its season at 29-8, but Ashmore was more than pleased with what transpired through the week and into the regional itself.
“Sometimes we were playing with one senior with two sophomores and three freshmen out there,” Ashmore said. “The experience is hopefully they will learn from it and learn what we need to work on. They tasted what it is to win sectionals and move on.”
Shirley was all over for the Wolves with 17 kills, 13 digs, three aces and two blocks. Noversoke, who easily stood 6-4 and created matchup problems for Warsaw at the net, had 13 kills and six blocks, and Alexa Sparks added 26 digs in the back row.
Kacy Bragg wrapped up her phenomenal career at Warsaw with 50 more assists along with 14 digs, six kills and four blocks. Fellow seniors Erin Peugh and Swanson also said goodbye, Peugh with 38 digs and Swanson 11 kills and three blocks. Sophomore Betty Barnett had 14 digs to lead the Tigers and freshman Cora West added 19 digs and two blocks.
Penn (32-5) took down Munster, 3-1, in the second semi-final and will meet Michigan City (30-7) in tonight’s championship in LaPorte. Munster closes out its season 32-5.