A near-capacity gym witnessed an epic four-game battle between the two unbeaten teams of the WaMaC East Oct. 10 at Beckman. Over half that crowd went home a little disappointed.
The Blazers fell to the 10-time WaMaC champs and Class 4A Hawks, 3-1. West Delaware took the first game, 25-18. Beckman answered to take game two, 25-21, but the Hawks closed out the match with 25-22, 25-19 wins, giving the Hawks a perfect 6-0 record in the East division and watching their own drop to 5-1.
In a sign of things to come, the Blazers’ Ashley Engelken sent her only miss of the night into the net on the game-opening serve, setting off a string of five straight Hawk points, a margin they held much of the first game. The Blazers cut it to three several times, twice on Hawk mistakes at 14-17, 15-18, 16-19 and finally on a Jada Wills kill at 21-18. But then the Hawks took it back, scoring the final four points of the game with kills from Alivia Schulte and Ava Hauser (two and a block).
Game two was a different story. After trading the early points, the Blazers built a 7-3 margin with kills from Kiersten Schmitt, Chloe Ungs and Paige McDermott. Another missed serve stymied that run for a point but when both Schulte and Heather Heims hit long, the Blazers were up 9-4. They maintained much of that and grew it to 17-11 on hits out of bounds from Miah Winkowitsch and Kayla Felton, as well as a Schmitt kill. McDermott put one down to balance one long by Schmitt and it was 20-13. The Hawks got some of that back on kills, but Haley LeGrand put up a block to re-gain serve for point 22. A Wills kill and block put the Blazers one point away from the end, one she delivered two serves later on a game-ending kill.
The third game began the way the second had, point-for-point until the Hawks went up 15-9 with the help of net calls on the Blazers and an ace from Kleitsch. Wills tipped the end of that run, 15-10, but the Hawks got it back with a Hauser kill and call in the net on Wills, 17-10. That margin grew to 19-11 before the Blazers went on a little run, taking advantage of some Hawk mistakes on hard serves from Wills, 19-14. Hauser ended that run with a kill, but Schmitt took back serve with her own and combined with McDermott for a block to make it 20-16. Ungs hit out to give the Hawks 21 and Collier put down a kill, 22-16. McDermott grabbed two points with kills before Kleitsch got a tip over to make it 23-18. McDermott and LeGrand combined for a block, 23-19 but Kayla Felton put one down for their point 24. Wills pounded a kill and two mistakes from the Hawks made it 24-22 but Hauser ended things with a kill, and the Hawks held a two games to one advantage.
When the fourth game was tied at 9-9, the Hawks went on a seven-point run that included three aces from Collier to lead 16-9. McDermott ended the run with a kill and Wills added a block, 16-11, but it was as close as they would get until the last tier of points. They cut a 20-12 lead to 20-16 with mistakes from the Hawks before Winkowitsch put a ball down for a 21-16 advantage. Hauser got a kill, matched by Schmitt’s tip, 22-18. Collier pounded a ball out of bounds but so did Wills and it was 23-18. A Koloc kill gave them 24 but Kylee Rueber got one down to give the Blazers one last gasp, 24-19. Trouble was, the match ended as it had begun, with a missed Blazer serve, this time from Nell McDermott, and it was the Hawks’ victory.
Coach Todd Troutman said, “Once again we had a tremendous home crowd which made for a great environment for the match. Our student section has done a tremendous job of helping us bring energy to the court when we have had home matches this fall and I thought Thursday night was the best atmosphere we have had in the gym for a long time
“I think the difference in the match was our inconsistency in passing their serves combined with our own errors in the service game. We were very effective offensively when we got the ball to our hitters in a position where they could take an aggressive swing, but unfortunately, we were not able to do that often enough. When you don’t pass well and don’t serve well you are going to have a hard time beating teams of the quality of West Delaware.
“Those are the two main areas of the game that we will be focusing on as we enter the last week of the regular season and move into regional play.”
Individual Blazer stats include: serving — Makayla Koelker 15-of-15, Engelken 11-of-12, Paige McDermott 12-of-13, Wills 11-of-15, Nell McDermott 9-of-14; aces — Nell McDermott one; blocks — Paige McDermott four, Schmitt three, Wills two, LeGrand and Ungs one; kills — Wills 15, Schmitt 10, Paige McDermott nine, Rueber and Ungs three, LeGrand one; digs— Olivia Hogan 29, Schmitt 15, Engelken 12, Koelker nine, Paige McDermott and Wills five, LeGrand four, Rueber three, Ungs two, Nell McDermott one; assists — Koelker 19, Schmitt 17, Hogan and Paige McDermott one.