By Mike Deak
SYRACUSE – It’s not as though Warsaw volleyball has been limping around this season. But with its lineup back to full strength for the first time all season, the 17 teams that its already beaten had their chances.
With Abby Sanner into her second week of action and both Kendra Love and Betty Barnett back after COVID quarantine protocols, Warsaw looked like a well-oiled machine in a 25-15, 25-15, 25-19 roll of host Wawasee Thursday night.
“I’m super excited we have everyone back but it’s hard to believe the sectional draw is right around the corner and we’re just getting our full team out there,” said Warsaw head coach Chandra Hepler. “It’s been a blessing that we’re so deep at every position, so the hard part is getting the lineups to click. Just because we have everyone back, we can’t just expect them all to function 100 percent of the time.”
Warsaw’s constant pressure at the net had Wawasee scrambling in game one, and while Wawasee looked to settle in as the night went on, quick scoring spurts by the Tigers kept enough distance between the two.
One of Melaina Hawblitzel’s five kills at 15-10 in the first set triggered Warsaw to score five of the next six points to set a tone. Sanner and Barnett both had blocks as Warsaw closed out the set, and a Barnett smash closed out game two. Barnett led Warsaw with 10 kills on the night.
The addition of Love to the backline gave the Tigers more flexibility. Love kept nearly a half dozen points alive on athletic digs, recording seven total, and also ripped four of Warsaw’s eight aces on the night.
Elizabeth Schmidt again quietly led Warsaw with 12 digs and added a pair of assists, and Kylie Smith joined the defensive work with seven digs to go with four assists and an ace. Avery Hales passed the 700-assist mark Thursday with 36 more helpers, giving the sophomore 705 on the season. Hales also chipped in five digs and five kills, at least a trio of those ‘on-two’ dips into unchartered Wawasee real estate.
“The only thing I thought we struggled on was our block,” Hepler said. “The girls up front it’s just communication. A couple of them haven’t been in there in a while, so that’s one thing we can work on.”
On the other side of the net, Wawasee’s sophomore setter, Amanda Allen, had 18 assists and three blocks. Warrior head coach Jeff Phillips noted Allen showed a lot of progress against a very big Warsaw frontline, and was impressed by his own tablesetter.
“As Amanda develops the mindset of ‘I’m the setter’, she will realize she can command games like we saw with Avery,” Phillips said of Allen, who earlier this season set the program record with 48 assists against Bethany Christian. “The thing that separates the two is Avery is thinking ahead at a high level, and we’re trying to get Amanda to realize she is good. That she is the leader of the offense.”
Bailey Mayhew and Emma Dippon both finished with six kills and Mayhew added three blocks.
While the loss looks lopsided on paper, Phillips was quick to note his team played much better than the numbers would suggest.
“Average-wise, we ended up about where we have been, but against a team like Warsaw, you can’t be average,” offered Phillips. “For us, I was happy with our overall level of play. If we had been this team at the beginning of the season when we lost a couple of those six losses, we play better in four of them, a couple of those turn into wins and we feel better about being 15-4 overall. The big thing is can we sustain this level of play.”
Warsaw moves to 17-6 overall and 5-0 in the Northern Lakes Conference. Wawasee sits at 12-7 and 0-4.
Warsaw’s JV had to go to overtime, but came out with a 25-14, 21-25, 15-7 win to open action in the Hardwood Teepee. Delaney Silveus produced 12 digs and four kills for Warsaw while Talia Kuhl had 13 digs for Wawasee.
In the annex gym, Wawasee, Warsaw and Plymouth all played a trio. Warsaw beat Wawasee 25-19, 25-21 and Plymouth 25-9, 25-14 while Wawasee defeated Plymouth in straight sets. Claire Reichenbach led Warsaw with 24 assists and 10 aces in the two matches. Wawasee did not provide stats for its freshman games.