Volleyball: Shawnee claims Division II championship

BLUFFTON — Top-seeded Shawnee claimed the Division II volleyball district with a 25-11, 25-12, 25-12 victory Thursday night against Liberty-Benton at Bluffton University’s Sommer Center.

Shawnee was confident and aggressive from the start and it showed it was there to win, and maybe to get revenge for being swept by the Eagles last season in the tournament. This was the first time the Indians won a volleyball district trophy in more than 40 years.

From the beginning, the Indians were aggressive up front and confident in the back. According to Shawnee head coach Brooke Hutchins, this helped them control the game and get the win.

“It goes back to what I said two days ago; controlling the tempo. When you sit back and you’re on defense and you are waiting for the action to happen, you are not controlling the tempo in the match. We tried to go after it, we tried to set the tone from the beginning with our play and our minds and our attitudes. We knew it was going to take everybody. It’s a test to the personalities and the training of the girls you see on the court and everybody that isn’t on the court. Every single person is needed and required to win these matches.”

Shawnee was up early and often, controlling the first set from start to finish. Their confidence, aggressiveness, and winning continued into set two. Shawnee took the lead 13-6 before Liberty Benton head coach Julie Todd called the first timeout of the game. From there, the Eagles went back and forth with Shawnee, but the Indians were too far ahead. Coach Todd called her second timeout with the Indians up 23-12. However, the Indians won the next two points to win set two.

Shawnee continued to thrive as the Indians held a 19-9 lead in the third set before the Eagles called their third timeout of the match. Shawnee led 22-10 before Todd called another timeout. Shawnee was on top from the beginning, and the Indians finished the same way. Shawnee won the third set 25-12 and swept the match to advance to the regional semifinals.

Hutchins spoke about the victory, what it meant to go this far in the tournament, and to keep the 24-game win streak alive. She credited the statement she made Tuesday night after the victory against Celina.

According to Hutchins, it’s all about the instilled mindset to compete with higher level competition. “A lot of emotions, a lot of layers. I think the biggest thing is just the discipline, like the physical game we are fine-tuning and refining, but it’s the mindset. Knowing they can compete, like I said two days ago, with strong teams, and then not letting up, not being OK with having a two-point lead, or a five-point lead … but just going after it and just finishing the match. I think that’s the biggest difference. Tuesday, I don’t feel like we played a super tight game … it wasn’t real clean. We talked about the consistency in serving, the precision in passing, the effectiveness in our swings, and just being aggressive and assertive. We knew they had elite hitters in the front court … just painting that positive mindset with not getting down, saying OK just bring the ball back to me and I’ve got the next point, next set. I think (being confident and aggressive) is the difference.”

Shawnee is talented, but according to Hutchins, the team chemistry is what sets the Indians apart this late in the season, “All of these teams, the athletes are going to match your skill, so you have to push yourself over that threshold. Maybe that’s our attitude, maybe that’s our team chemistry … you want to keep a straight face, keep composed and just keep chiseling. I think that’s what we tried to achieve tonight and I think we did it. We’ll go back to work, come in and do some light stuff, let their bodies recoup over the weekend, but really I have to look forward to who we are going to face in the regional semifinals; ultimately it’s going to come back down to our training and controlling the ball on our side. I think between our serve reception, our defense, combine that with very solid pieces in the front court, we can be pretty unstoppable. So, just continuing to believe in ourselves and just keep pushing and keep it going.”

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