Volleyball: Celina holds off Shawnee

SHAWNEE TOWNSHIP — Coming into Thursday’s contest against Shawnee, Celina head coach Phil Bange knew his team needed to dig deep if they were going to post a win and after dropping the first set, 26-24, it appeared the Bulldogs, would need to dig deeper if they were going to win.

The Bulldogs did not disappoint their coach as Celina responded by capturing the next three sets, 25-22, 25-20 and 25-18 to secure the hard-fought win, 3-1, against the Indians.

Celina improves to 2-0 in the Western Buckeye League and 5-3 overall. Shawnee dips to 3-2 on the year and 1-1 in league action.

“We have had a long week,” Benge said. “We had an invitational on Saturday and Monday and Tuesday we faced MAC schools and coming in we knew we were going to have to dig deep. Shawnee is a good team with experienced players. We knew it was going to be a slugfest and our girls were going to have to dig deep and they did.

“I am so proud of them they really outlasted Shawnee.”

All four matches were full of momentum changes and runs with neither squad ever gaining a clear upperhand. In all four games, neither team owned more than a six-point advantage at any time.

It was the second set that helped Celina gain a little momentum after holding off Shawnee late in the contest to secure the win.

Shawnee head coach Brook Hutchins said if they could have captured that close second set the outcome might have been different.

“I think it came down to passing and execution in the front court,” Hutchins said. “They are a tough opponent and I felt we devised a defense against what they are capable but at key points we were not executing in the front court.

“I think the stamina was key and our big hitters were getting max reps tonight and they were putting the ball away early and if we would have taken that second set it would have been very different but it didn’t happen. We are a hard-working bunch and will come back tomorrow and try again.”

One difference in the final two sets was Celina’s ability to “contain” Shawnee hitter Kelly Cooper. In the first two sets, the junior recorded 10 kills and was instrumental in the Indians capturing the first set. However, in the final two sets, Cooper was limited to four total kills.

“We made some changes on our defensive side,” Benge said. “She is a great player and can jump high and hits hard but the goal was never to completely stop her. You really can’t with a player like that. Our goal was to serve them tough and not let them get in their offense and to do some things with our blocks and funnel balls to our defense and fortunately enough we got enough of those to get the win.”

A well-balanced offensive approach also played a role in the Bulldogs’ victory as they got a number of contributions from their hitters. Amelia Lutz led the way with 15 kills with Ava Knapke adding eight kills of her own. Others adding key kills were Brooklyn Bourne, Payton Bertke and Mylee Saap. Credit Bertke for doing a good job of distributing the ball to her teammates.

“We are the kind of team where we don’t have a superstar,” Benge said. “It has to be everybody and that is what we talk about. Everybody has to come to play and do their job. It is whole team thing and it was tonight.”