Pioneers blaze path to top of NWCC

One down. One to go.

Lima Temple Christian celebrated a 3-1 win over Perry and at least a share of the Northwest Central Conference title after the Pioneers defeated the Commodores, 25-12, 20-25, 25-25-14 and 25-20 in front of a lively and overflowing crowd Thursday night.

With the win, the Pioneers improved to 17-3 overall and remain unbeaten in the NWCC with a 6-0 mark with one conference game remaining. Perry suffers its first conference loss and falls to 5-1 and drops to 14-6 for the year.

“This was a big match for us today,” Temple Christian head coach Tim Acklin said. “There was a lot on the line today with the championship and both teams wanted it and we knew it. The key for us was coming in with a game plan and sticking to it.

“In the last couple of games we got behind a little bit but this team doesn’t get rattled to easily and we fought back. They (Perry) had a good game that second game and got some momentum and it was games of momentum so we take this one for sure. It feels good.”

Perry head coach Jodi Cartegna said this was not what she expected.

“We kind of beat ourselves tonight,” Cartegna said. “This is definitely not what we expected tonight but we have had a great season and we move on and hopefully look at the tournament. We have two more games and have to get ready for the tournament.

“I think we missed 12 serves tonight and that hurts us. I am proud of the girls and what we have accomplished. This is our first loss in conference so we have to move on from here.”

Solid serving, the spiking of CeCe Worsham and the ability to stay consistent enabled Temple Christian to oust Perry.

Worsham finished with 22 kills on the night. She also had 20 digs, three assists and two aces. Emily Bontrager had 20 assists and seven digs and Grace Korwin added four aces. Hailey Smith had six kills and nine digs and Jessica Holloway had 12 kills, three assists and one ace. Juliette Kinnear had six kills, five aces, four digs and one block and Kaylee Linhart had 14 assists and 14 digs.

After dominating the first game, Perry battled back to take the second set and appeared to have fixed some of serve receive issues as well as avoiding costly miscues. But the Commodores failed to stay consistent and Temple Christian snatched the next two sets to secure the huge win.

On the serving front, Temple Christian recorded 15 aces on the night.

“We knew where their better hitters were and we tried to serve where we couldn’t get the ball to them,” Acklin said. “We have the weapons and thankfully they got it done today. We mixed it up a little today and fortunately for us they made some mistakes and we capitalized on it.”

While the Pioneers revel in their win, Acklin said the team is looking to win the NWCC outright when they face Elgin on Thursday. Last season, Temple Christian shared the league title with three other teams after losing its second to last NWCC contest to Hardin Northern.

“Last year, we choked and ended up in a three-way tie so this year we are going to fight and not let that happen,” Acklin said.