By Mike Deak
GOSHEN – There’s the old saying, ‘if it aint broke, don’t fix it.’
At this point, NorthWood volleyball head coach Hilary Laidig could basically just roll the ball out and tell her kids to go get it. Winners of 18 of its last 19 matches, Laidig’s Panthers looked like a well-oiled machine in a 3-0 win at Goshen Tuesday evening.
There wasn’t a point in Tuesday’s contest where NorthWood looked especially challenged. In game two, Goshen did hold a 7-6 lead, but that disappeared in a New York minute as NorthWood would score the next eight points to flip the scoreboard to 14-7. After winning the first game 25-9, NorthWood rode that game two streak to a 25-13 final, then matched the final score in game three to put the match to bed in just over an hour all told.
“I thought we did come out focused and not create a bunch of unforced errors and not give them points,” Laidig said. “I thought we served them tough in the seams and put the ball where we wanted to without making very many errors.”
Establishing itself from the get-go for the Panthers was the wall that was Claire Payne. The freshman phenom got her hands on three Goshen attempts at the net in the first game, then had another block in NorthWood’s eight-point streak in the second. Payne had six blocks on the night and added as many kills to her work.
Sophia Barber, another of NorthWood’s fantastic freshmen, led the way with 11 kills. Karis Bennett added six kills and a pair of aces.
Macy Lengacher inched closer to a personal milestone with 10 digs, putting her nine away from 1,000 for her career, likely to find the mark Thursday in NorthWood’s (18-2, 4-0 NLC) next contest against Northridge.
Annika Bennett also continued her superb all-around play, recording 10 digs and 26 assists as the Panthers were able to attack from just about anywhere from the court behind Bennett’s guidance.
“She quietly gets so many things statistically, like, oh man, there’s another one for her,” Laidig said of Annika Bennett, one of just two seniors on the roster with Alana Lehman. “She had 14 digs the other night. She just secretly…she serves really tough. Her server rating is always one of the top ones. She’s consistent and she’s making really good choices with all the hitters that we do have. And she gets kills in games when we need her to. She’s sneaky, but she does a really good job.”
Goshen (7-16, 0-5 NLC) had Lauren Kinsey and Macy Hershberger combine for seven kills, Sarah Harmelink and Janiece Herrera team for 15 digs and Maddie Gerber produce 10 assists.
In the junior contest, NorthWood made quick work of Goshen in a 25-4, 25-24 final. Maddy Birk had nine kills and two block, Macie Knepp had seven aces, five kills and five digs, and Emery Porter had 19 assists.