LEIPSIC – After the loss of several key players from last season’s Division IV regional final volleyball team, Leipsic head coach Brent Newell knew this year’s team needed to fill some huge voids.
So far this season, Newell’s new players are starting to fit right in.
In Wednesday’s Blanchard Valley Conference matchup with visiting Van Buren, the Vikings displayed some resiliency as they staved off the Black Knights, en route to winning in straight sets – 26-24, 25-15, 25-14.
With the victory, Leipsic improves to 12-1 overall and 5-1 in the BVC. Van Buren slips to 11-4, 3-2 in conference play.
“We graduated four seniors, and our best two offensive players,” Newell said. “We graduated about 800 (career) kills and about 800 (career) digs.”
The most notable loss for Leipsic from last year’s squad was Hayley Heitmeyer, who now plays volleyball at Xavier University. Heitmeyer recorded 1,187 kills at Leipsic.
In Wednesday’s first set, Leipsic quickly found itself down by as many as eight points, before it battled back to take the first set.
In the second set, Leipsic started strong, as it pulled out to an early lead and never trailed.
In the third set, Van Buren kept it close, knotting the score four times, before Leipsic finally went on a run to pull away for the victory.
Leading the way for Leipsic Wednesday was Elizabeth Scheckelhoff, who recorded 12 kills. Teammates Kasey Brough and Jocelyn Hermiller each added seven kills. Lyndie Hazelton dished up 17 assists for the Vikings.
“Offensively, we have a lot of young hitters on our team,” Newell said. “We’re still learning. We have some ball control issues. We spiked the ball out of bounds, 20 times, tonight. That’s an area of concern for us, but we managed to get by.”
Van Buren’s Emma Reineke was a force near the net on Wednesday. On the night, Reineke knocked down 15 kills.
“They have some really nice hitters on their team,” Newell said. “We had a hard time stopping No. 8 (Reineke) tonight. When she gets a set, she puts the ball away.
“We scored a lot of points when No. 8 was in the back row. We were able to make some digs, and they didn’t get very many aces on us. We did a very good job, defensively; but we had a hard time with No. 8.”
Newell said that with some new players getting more involved this season, he expected some inconsistency, at least early on.
“In our first set (Wednesday), we spiked nine balls out of bounds,” Newell said. “Then, in sets two and three, we spiked nine balls out of bounds – but that was between the two sets, instead of just the one set. So, it was a little bit better, but not where we needed to be. … But it got a little better as we went on.”
Newell has been impressed on how his team has handled adversity this season.
“That’s a huge momentum swing, when you’re down late in the game,” he said. “We were down like six or seven, late in the game. We’ve done that a couple times this year – and came back at the end and won. … They don’t give up. They fight, and I give them credit for that.”