LIMA – The way Elida and Shawnee were trading points throughout Thursday’s Division II sectional tournament volleyball opener, it seemed inevitable there would be a fifth game.
But while Shawnee began the match with a head of steam, it was Elida sprinting to the finish line to claim a 15-25, 28-26, 25-18, 25-23, 15-11 victory at Lima Senior.
Elida (10-13) will take on Celina (14-9) at 2 p.m. Saturday in the sectional final at Lima Senior. Celina beat Wapakoneta 25-22, 25-18, 25-15 in Thursday’s first match.
During the season, Elida and Shawnee split a pair of matches: One in Western Buckeye League play and another in a weekend tournament.
“We knew it was going to be a battle,” Elida coach Kevin King said. “We’re evenly matched. Their outside hitters are a little stronger but we won the battle in the middle. We came out a little sluggish and that was our own fault, but (Shawnee) came out ready to go.”
The Bulldogs began the first game with a 6-2 lead but the Indians went on a tear from that point and zipped to a 20-9 lead before closing it out. In the second game, however, both teams came out swinging and there were 13 ties. Then, with the game at 26-26, Elida’s Carly Stetler served an ace for a 27-26 lead before serving out the next point for the 28-26 win.
The ensuing two games were close, though not quite as nip-tuck, as each team claimed a win leading to the fifth game.
Elida largely controlled the final game, jumping out to a 10-5 lead before pushing forward for the win.
“With that close of a rival, it can always be that kind of a match,” Shawnee coach Amy Knight said. “Close fans, lots of crowd participation and the girls all know each other from summer ball.
“Shay Wilkerson did a great job all-around. Zoe Morse did a great job digging and in the back row. (Senior setter) Ashlee King did exactly what we needed her to do. We just needed to make sure we got the passes to her to do that.”
King finished with 35 assists for the Indians, Wilkerson had 14 kills, 19 digs and seven aces and Morse had 21 digs. Mackenzie Miller served five aces, Lauren May added 13 kills, Elise Hastings had six blocks and Lariah Theil added four blocks.
For Elida, Summer Grogg smashed 15 kills, Torrie McAdams finished with 11 kills, Erin Bowman set 17 assists, Katie Hawk had 15 assists and Ally Bader finished with three aces.
“Once Summer Grogg settled in she really found her spots,” King said. “She has long arms and a long reach and really played well in the middle.”
Now Elida takes on co-WBL champion Celina. Celina beat Elida to end the WBL schedule recently 3-0 in a match that gave it a piece of the WBL title with Ottawa-Glandorf.
“They needed the win and they came out guns blazing,” King said. “They have a lot of talent on their team, so they expect to win. But if we can stay focused, work their defense and serve-receive we’ll have a chance.”
Celina 3, Wapak 0
Top-seeded Celina did mess around in the opening game, storming out to a 24-12 lead. However, the Bulldogs then struggled to put Wapakoneta away.
Following a side out, Redskins’ senior outside hitter Erin Schnell stepped up and served her team nine straight points, including two aces, to get her team to within 24-22 before Celina finally found the last point it needed.
From there, Celina didn’t necessarily run away with the final two games, but the Bulldogs never trailed and regularly built decent leads they held onto.
“We came away with a nice victory,” Celina coach Amy Sutter said. “We started strong, we had a nice lead and then had a lot of errors. We can’t do that, we have to battle through those slumps. Our intention is to go far in the tournament.”
WBL Player of the Year senior hitter Michaela Wenning turned in a strong attacking performance to make sure Celina came away with the win.
Wapakoneta’s Josie Miller turned in 12 blocks and six kills, Lea Stoner had 13 blocks, Erin Schnell smacked six kills and had eight points and Jadyn Nuss finished with 24 digs and 30 serve receptions. The Redskins finish the season 7-15.
“We battled a lot of adversity this season,” said Wapakoneta first-year coach Amy Ruppert, who will return all but four seniors to next year’s team. “We started the season 6-1 and then all of the sudden had a couple of major illnesses and three big injuries, and later a fourth.
“I’m really excited about the girls we have returning and coming up. They’ve worked very hard at it and they’re already excited about next year.”