ELIDA — As a rule, the deeper a team goes in a high school tournament, the greater competition.
That was true Thursday night in the first match of the Division IV regional volleyball tournament at the Elida Fieldhouse, matching Leipsic and Arlington.
The Vikings overcame a set disadvantage to rally past the Red Devils 25-19, 25-27, 23-25, 25-12, 15-5.
“We had told the girls after the third set to go back to being aggressive. That’s what has gotten us this far and for us to move on, we had to go back to that,” Leipsic head coach Brent Newell said. “We knew we’d have to do some tipping against them because they have such a solid block but we started to do too much of it in the second and third sets and it had gotten away from us. We just told the girls to swing away and not worry about getting blocked.”
Arlington head coach Steve Clark felt his team got out of rhythm in the fourth set.
“We got out of our system with our passing and hitting. Volleyball is such a game of momentum that it can be difficult to get back to what you were doing so well before,” Clark said. “The fifth set, we could never get back to how we were playing the second and third sets. We couldn’t get our passing down like we had it before and they took advantage of that. Again, we got out of our system and that ended up being costly for us in the end.”
Trailing two sets to one, the Vikings (25-2) got on a run, breaking open from a 6-4 deficit with 10 straight points, led by the serving of Hayley Heitmeyer (28 kills, 4 aces), who had three aces during the streak, as well as four hitting errors by the Red Devils (20-6). Leading 14-6, the Vikings continued to take advantage of some mistakes by the Red Devils, as well as getting some key kills from Carlee Siefker (16 kills) and Liz Schecklehoff, to take the fourth set going away, finishing it on a stuff by Heitmeyer to force a fifth set.
The Vikings maintained that momentum into the fifth set, using an early 3-0 spurt - two kills by Heitmeyer and a hit off the block by Schecklehoff - to take a 5-1 lead and force the first of Arlington’s fifth-set timeouts. After a stuff by Arlington’s Hannah Willow (14 kills, 7 blocks, 3 aces), the Vikings got the momentum right back on a kill and an ace by Heitmeyer, a kill by Siefker and a hitting error to take a commanding 9-2 lead. From then on, Leipsic had all the momentum and rode that to finish the marathon win on a tip by the 6-2 Heitmeyer on match point.
Leipsic began the match the same way they ended it; solid all-around play. They slowly built up a lead behind Heitmeyer, setters such as Lyndie Hazelton (35 assists) and Selena Loredo (20 assists) and defenders like Kacey Dulle (29 digs), Siefker (22 digs) and Brooke Brown (15 digs). When Heitmeyer put one down off the Red Devil defense, set one went to Leipsic.
Arlington turned it around in set two. The Red Devils began to match their foe point for point as their leaders, Willow, Jenna Pepple (11 kills), Lindsay Dodds (35 assists) and Hailey Essinger (4 kills), stepped up to get them back in the match. With the biggest lead being two most of the way, the set came down to the last three points, with the Vikings in front 25-24 on a kill by Brown. A Willow stuff, a hitting error and a spike off the block by Willow tied the match at a set each.
The third set was very much like its predecessor, close all the way. The biggest edge by either team was three as the set wore on and like in the second set, the Red Devils had the better finishing touch. Down 23-22 on a bomb by Heitmeyer, a serving error gave the ball to Arlington and back-to-back kills by Pepple and Kyra Bormuth put the Red Devils up a set.
“Hayley is one of our best servers and she was in a position to do some damage in the fifth set. We had gotten a bit too soft in our hitting after the first set and they took advantage of that,” Newell said. “We found some openings against their block the first set and they made their adjustments. We made ours as well but we went away from what had gotten us this far a little too much as far as our swings goes. We made it to the regional finals in 2008 and we’re looking forward to another practice tomorrow.”
Clark expressed confidence in his team’s ability to persevere after falling behind a set.
“We made our adjustment after the first set and it worked. We have played a lot of four- and five-set matches this year and we were confident in that situation,” Clark said. “We knew coming in that Heitmeyer in particular could take some big swings but she was also good at tipping, so we had to be on our toes. In the end we started to get a little too soft in our attacks – which we had done in the first set to fall behind – and we could not get back in that mentality.”
The Vikings moved on to battle Tiffin Calvert, at 2 p.m. Saturday also at Elida.
Reach The Lima News sports department at 567-242-0451.