SYRACUSE – To say NorthWood volleyball is on a roll would be to ask the past 22 programs what just hit them. NorthWood’s latest victim, West Noble, once again fell before the stone as NorthWood hoisted its 21st sectional title in a 3-0 win Saturday night at the Class 3-A Wawasee Volleyball Sectional.
NorthWood (31-3) has won 28 matches in a row dating back to Aug. 24, and in that span has lost just two sets in the process. Of the 22 different teams to find the short end during the streak, West Noble lost to the Panthers for the second time this season, and offered little resistance in a 25-15, 25-16, 25-12 final at the Hardwood Teepee.
It was much of the same execution that got NorthWood’s seniors their first sectional title. Maddy Payne woke up the gym with a monster kill in the first set, much to the chagrin of Lauren Baker’s delayed smile. Payne once again was the horsepower to the Panther engine, throwing down 12 kills.
“I know teams are going to come after me, but I’m confident in Caroline (Mullet) and the rest of my team that we can get kills from anywhere on the court,” Payne said, who with Mullet have become one of the top point-scoring duos in the state. “If I get blocked or make a mistake, I know the rest of the team will pick me up.”
West Noble showed some life in game two, only for NorthWood to piece together another of its patent pending runs. The Chargers saw Grace College-bound Kristina Teel fire off an ace to get West Noble down just four, 17-13, but NorthWood would score seven of the next nine points.
“They are really feeding off each other and get where they are going to be and playing as a team,” said NorthWood head coach Hilary Laidig. “I didn’t see the nerves as much, but I know this was so important. Their sophomore year we definitely lost a sectional we shouldn’t have. And that was a taste in their mouth they didn’t forget.”
Payne and Ali Knepp opened the third with kills and Gracie Clark floated over another ace, one of six on the night, as the Red Slam’s 17-2 eruption in the third had the NorthWood side of the gym in full throat. The close out for the Panthers ended four years of frustration for a senior class that saw West Noble win two of the past three titles – aided by current Purdue standout Maddie Schermerhorn – and the aforementioned frustrating loss in 2017 to Fairfield on its home court. Getting to lift that trophy was a moment this team won’t forget.
“We’d like to think we are capable of anything right now,” Clark said. “We are working hard and really trust each other. We know the competition is going to get much tougher at the regional, and we’re looking forward to it. But tonight is good, we really wanted that sectional trophy.”
Macy Lengacher and Kendal Miller combined for 16 digs, Payne and Knepp had seven total blocks and Mullet sent up another 26 assists in keeping with the top setters in the state.
After experiencing a rough start to its season and a coaching change entering the final month, West Noble ended on a solid streak. The Chargers started 3-16 before winning eight of its next 11 to make the sectional final. The Chargers end its season 11-20.
No. 4 NorthWood now heads to the Norwell Regional where it will face Northwestern (32-2) in the first game of the regional, a 10 a.m. start. On the other half of the grid are Angola (27-4), winners of its own sectional in a 3-2 win over No. 2 Fort Wayne Dwenger, and Bellmont (22-10), which stunned Muncie Burris 3-2 to win its own sectional. Norwell’s championship is set for 7 p.m.