Volleyball: Shawnee to play Liberty-Benton for Division II district final

BLUFFTON — The Shawnee Indians and Liberty Benton Eagles are set to play in a Division II District finals matchup on Thursday back at the Somner Center on the campus of Bluffton University after they each won district semifinal matchups Tuesday night.

In the first match of the night in Bluffton, the 23-1 WBL champion Shawnee Indians beat league opponent, the 10-14 Celina Bulldogs in three sets, 25-17, 25-20, 25-23. Shawnee won its first matchup of the season three sets to none.

In the first set, Shawnee dominated early and often. Kelly Cooper and Karleigh Hutchins were a big part of the Indians’ success as Cooper finished the night with 19 kills and Hutchins finished with 10 kills and 21 digs. This propelled the Indians to a 25-17 first set victory.

The second set saw Celina get more momentum to give the set back and forth battle. Shawnee would eventually go up 19-14, but Celina fought back to trail by 20-17. From there, Celina made too many mistakes including the spike out of bounds on the set-winning play for Shawnee. The Indians won another set to lead two sets to none after a 25-20 victory.

In the third set, Shawnee went on a hitting streak early in the set to lead 10-2. With their season on the line, the Bulldogs were looking to bounce back as they tried to make a comeback and save their season. Big contributors on the night came from Ava Knapke and Miley Sapp, as Knapke’s 13 kills and three blocks, along with Sapp’s 12 kills and three blocks, helped Celina go on the attack. After Shawnee was up 14-10, Celina comes back to tie it up at 14. Back and forth between both teams as the third set was tied at 21. Shawnee only lost six sets all season, and didn’t want to lose this one to a WBL opponent. Shawnee attacked late to close out the game capitalizing on Celina mistakes to win its 65th set of the season 25-23 and win the match three sets to none.

Shawnee Indians head coach Brooke Hutchins is happy they were able to beat a WBL opponent to advance the farthest the team has ever made it in school history. “It’s hard to beat a WBL team two times in the same season. We were WBL champions, you got a little target on your back, Celina is a solid squad … I feel like at the right time we took care of the ball in the backcourt and executed in the front court.”

Moving forward in the tournament, Coach Hutchins wants her players to realize they are a part of a special squad. “These girls (are) maintaining the mindset that we can compete with state-contending teams. One set at a time, one match at a time, and just keep going, just keep plowing through, that’s the biggest thing. Maintaining that assertiveness and controlling the tempo of sets and games. I think the sky is the limit. We never try to overlook any opponent. It’s going to be a huge challenge, so we are going to revamp and get prepared tomorrow.”

Shawnee will face Liberty-Benton Eagles, 25-20, 19-25, 19-25, 25-19, 15-9. winner against St. Marys.

In the first set, St. Marys went out to a 3-1 lead, but the Eagles came back to tie it up at 4. Then, they took over and took an 8-5 lead. Girls from both teams were diving all over the court to give it their all. Liberty-Benton went up 10-6, but the Roughriders brout it to 13-12. L-B pulled away went up 19-14. However, the Roughriders came all the way back to tie it up at 20 on extra efforts in digs and blocks. In the end, a dominant spike from Lauren Gerken gave L-B the lead 24-20 and they went on to win the first set 25-20.

In the second set, St Mary’s got off to a hot start going up 4-1 early. St Marys even made the Eagles call a timeout after going up 9-5. The Eagles came out of the timeout hungry as they tied the score up at 11. Back and forth they went to tie it up at 15. A late run by the Roughriders put them up 23-19 and they took over from there. A great effort from Reghan Puthoff with a kill to get to 24 and a great block up front from her the play after gave them 25-19 victory.

The third set was more of the same for the Roughriders. St Marys went up 20-15 on four consecutive points to force the Eagles to call another timeout. Aggressive offense from the Roughriders ended up with Brynn Clark finished with 18 kills on the night, Audra Clark who had 20 assists, and Ashlie Nuss who had 23 digs on the night, including her 1,000th career dig, all came up big on the night for St Marys. Too many mistakes cost the Eagles late as St Marys won 25-19 for their second set win in a row to go up two sets to one.

The fourth set saw the Eagles bounce back. L-B came out ready to win the set, shown by their effort from Sophia Barbara, who finished with 10 kills and eight blocks on the night, Lauren Gerken who finished with 20 kills and 18 digs, Kaytlin Erdeljac, who ended the night with 33 digs, and Alyssa Hanni-Wells, who not only had a career high in assists with 43, but she also surpassed 1000 assists in her career. However, the Roughriders responded when they scored four points in a row to take the lead 16-15. The Eagles soared from there as they went on a run of their own to lead 19-16. The Eagles dominated the rest of the set to win 25-19 and tie the match at two sets each.

In the fifth and final set, the Eagles kept the momentum from the fourth set win and take the final set 15-9.

Liberty-Benton head coach Julie Todd spoke about how much this win means to not only the team but the whole Eagles community after the loss of Liberty-Benton student Andrew Walker earlier in the month. “This meant a lot to us. We have six seniors on the team and I felt like they could have crumbled after the second set that we lost, but they decided to battle. This has been a super emotional week for us with the loss of our student and he was a big fan of ours, so I kind of held it together the whole time, but at the end, the only thing on my mind was his family … it was nice that these girls could go out and play like a team; play with heart because I think that’s healing, I think that’s good to be apart of something bigger than yourself, and I’m just super proud of how they battled and encouraged each other.”

Coach Todd also credited her six seniors for their upperclassmen leadership to get the team to where they are. “All six of them have been amazing leaders, but I think what we saw in that fourth and fifth set was Lauren Gerken and Sophia Barbara just willing to win … I could sense when they were in the game, they were difference makers. Then, I think that energy just fed on to everyone else. I think winning districts would be so amazing, I think that was my goal, then everything after that is a bonus. I know Shawnee is a great team, their middle hitter is super good. You know it’s a late night, we went to five, it’s been an emotional week as it is, we only have one day to prepare, it is what it is, that’s OK and that’s what volleyball is all about. I think it’s going to be a good match, it’s going to be a fun match. The fans like to see these games go to five, but I hope we can beat them quicker than that. We are just going to do whatever we can to get ready and get prepared, and I think it’s going to be a battle.”

Celina Stats:

Haley Kizer – 25 Assists

Allison Schwieterman – 22 Digs

Ava Knapke – 13 Kills, 3 Blocks

Mylee Sapp – 12 Kills, 3 Blocks

Shawnee Stats:

Kelly Cooper – 19 Kills

Karleigh Hutchins – 10 Kills, 21 Digs

Grace Freiburger – 25 Digs

Addie Maxwell – 36 Assists

St. Mary’s Stats:

Brynn Clark – 18 Kills, 6 Blocks, 3 Aces

Syerra Greber – 10 Kills, 10 Digs, 1 Ace

Audra Clark – 20 Assists, 16 Digs, 1 Kill, 1 Ace

Lily Rammel – 11 Assists, 2 Kills, 3 Digs, 3 Aces

Ashlie Nuss – 23 Digs – Surpassed 1,000 Career Digs

Liberty Benton Stats:

Lauren Gerken – 20 Kills, 18 Digs

Alyssa Hanni-Wells – Career High 43 Assists – Surpassed 1,000 Career Assists

Sophia Barbara – 10 Kills, 8 Blocks

Kaytlin Erdeljac – 33 Digs

Maddy Amstutz – 5 Aces, 14 Digs

Rylee Knestrick – 7 Kills

Lindsay May – 6 Kills

Corra Dehart – 6 Kills, 5 Blocks

Justin Dierkes wrote this story for LimaScores.com. Reach The Lima News sports department at 567-242-0451.