MILLBURY — Too much talent. Too many mistakes.
Liberty-Benton, which features a wealth of talent, proved to be too much for Ottawa-Glandorf to handle as the Eagles ousted the Titans in straight sets to claim a 3-0 victory and the Division III regional crown in front of a capacity crowd Saturday.
The Eagles won 27-25, 25-21 and 25-22.
The win puts Liberty-Benton in the state finals for the first time in school history in volleyball. Ottawa-Glandorf ends its season with a 25-3 mark.
Titan head coach Amber Gerdeman said that she felt a point here and point there could have easily gone in the Titans’ favor. Unfortunately for Ottawa-Glandorf that was not the case.
“I felt every set could have gone either way, and it it just came down to a couple of points,” Gerdeman said. “We knew it was going to be a close fight, and it was, and it just didn’t fall in our favor..”
Perhaps this was most evident in the crucial first set.
In the first set that featured 13 ties, the Titans jumped out to a 13-8 advantage and hoped to put away the Eagles early. But Liberty-Benton spearheaded by kills from Hannah Warrington and Karis Willow rallied to reel off six straight points to knot the game at 13-13.
From there the two teams battled back and forth, and it stayed tied until 25-25. A big kill from Caitlin Elseser and a another point propelled the Eagles to the 27-25 set win.
Liberty-Benton head coach Julie Todd said winning the first set was huge.
“Sometimes we need to adjust to where their hitters are hitting so we just kind of chipped away and played with so much heart today,” Todd said. “Credit O-G. They are an amazing team and it was fun to play them. I am sad their season is over but congratulations to them for making it this far.”
For the Titans, they had their hands full in all three sets trying to stop the potent Eagles offense.
“We wanted to get two blockers on every attack and all away around they have some pretty good attackers,” Gerdeman said. “We just had to try and take primary shots at the net and play really good defense behind but L-B is such a tough offensive team, and you have to play your best defensive match.”
The Titan front line was continually peppered by the Eagles’ hitters and at times turned back shots but Liberty-Benton was relentless in its attack.
Gerdeman added that her team did not play its best game of the year.
“Some things did not go in our favor tonight, and I don’t think we played our best game today, and we weren’t able to find the offensive attack that we wanted. Their blocking gave us some troubles,” Gerdeman said.
Another key element to the Eagles’ win was their tremendous net play that turned back numerous Titan spikes. At times, the Eagles line featured three players over 6-feet and that severely hampered the Titans’ ability to attack the middle.
Credit Eagles’ Isabella Granger, Elseser and Karla Willow for providing blocks against the Titans.
The Eagles’ attack coupled with their formidable front wall, allowed them to win the next two sets.
In the first set, the Eagles set the tone early by trying to key on Titan senior Taylor Alt. Todd said the strategy was to minimize her impact as much as possible.
“She is an amazing player and we just said we hoped to get some touches on the ball,” Todd said. “We said we know she was going to earn her kills and we said that is OK, let her earn kills but slow her down with some touches.”
Alt finished with 15 kills, two aces and two blocks.
Erin Kaufman had nine kills and four blocks. Maddie White had six kills and one block. Brianna Schimmoeller had 17 assists and 14 digs. Miya Ellerbrock had five kills, one ace and 11 digs. Erica Annesser had five kills, two blocks and 14 digs. Claire Eiden recorded one ace and nine digs.
With the season coming to a close, it ends Gerdeman’s first season as the Titan head coach and she said she was proud of how hard the team worked all year.
“I cannot say enough about this group of girls,” Gerdeman said. “I walked into a program where these girls and this group of seniors were so dedicated and so disciplined that I am proud of being their coach. They worked day in and day out and were great leaders. It is really a stunning senior class.”