METAMORA – The numbers that Kelsey Wulf’s Evergreen Viking volleyball teams have accumulated in NWOAL play in the last three years are almost mind-boggling.
23 of 24 matches won, the only loss back in October of 2014 at Archbold, who the Vikes shared the league championship with that season.
19 of those triumphs have been straight set wins.
And now with yet another straight set win over Montpelier, 25-11, 28-26, 25-10, the Vikings have won 17 consecutive NWOAL matches, and more importantly three consecutive league titles, that last two campaigns with an unblemished 8-0 mark.
“Every one of them has been a little bit different,” stated Wulf. “Every one of them is exciting. Tonight was exciting as well, I’ve got to give it to Montpelier because I think they gave us more of a fight than our girls expected or even wanted tonight. Their program has definitely come a long way.”
Unlike the great dynasties such as the Chicago Bull or Laker teams that three-peated with the same star core, this year’s Viking team was one that had to replace a number of good players that rolled through league play in 24 straight sets last year.
“I had more than one person back in August tell me before we ever started playing that this year was going to be a rebuilding year,” said Wulf. “Losing Taylor Fuller and her supporting cast, Carrisa (Call), Erin (Brandt), and then Hannah (Beroske) and Alysa (Langenderfer), and then losing Lindsay Carr, who started last year and Lexie Shipman to knee injuries we were pretty concerned.”
“But our girls really pulled together and we have for the most part played well together, we just have to make sure we maintain that higher level of play heading into the tournament.”
Almost like a rerun of matches past, Eden Eisel got the Viking engine started in the first set with a two-handed dunk at the net and a shot out of the middle that along with a Megan Floyd ace, boosted the Vikes to a 5-1 lead.
A duo of Haili Mossing left side kills were matched by the same from Audrey Pirtle of the Locos, but Kaela Fauble rifled a shot off a block attempt, Mossing scored an ace and the Vikings setter Alyssa Noe, rose up for a block at the net to give Evergreen an 11-4 advantage.
Eisel’s redirect gave Evergreen an 18-7 lead before Kori Kreuz scored on a solo block, Mossing redirected a tip and slammed a shot down the sideline, Fauble nailed one from the left and then from the middle to end the first set.
However, a funny thing happened on the way to what many expected to be an easy sweep.
The Vikings, for some unforeseen reason, lost focus and an assortment of missed serves, miscommunications on the floor and missed hitting errors led to 13 Loco points, and coupled with two blocks kills from Pirtle and two more push kills by Hannah Blake, Montpelier led the second set 23-19.
“In game two we played really sloppy, cut and dried,” said Wulf. “We probably should be playing set four right now instead.”
Fauble’s right side kill and Eisel’s dunk along with a Loco net violation sliced the lead to 23-22, but a Viking attack again went out to put the Locos at set point.
Eisel came through again with a ramming shot down the left sideline and Alyssa Noe scored an ace to tie the set, but Caitlyn Nixon put the Locos back on top with a block kill.
Eisel knotted the score again with a slam from the middle, but Floyd’s serve hit the net to again put Montpelier at set point.
This time it was Mossing scoring from the left, then Fauble’s off-hand tip put Evergreen up where Mossing finally finished the set, finding wood from the left side.
As poorly as the Vikings played in the second set, they brought their “A” game in the third, scoring 19 of the 25 on kills or aces.
Eisel started a 7-1 rally with a push and a shot from the middle while Sydney Northrup added an ace and Kreuz a dunk to put Evergreen in control.
Maddie Richmond’s serve rolled over the net for an ace to cut the lead to 7-3, but after her next serve cracked into the net, the Vikes snapped off five more points including Fauble’s emphatic dunk, Mossing’s left side hit and Noe’s third ball bump that found an open space.
Montpelier closed to 14-7 when again the Vikes missed on four attacks but Fauble righted the ship with a block, Noe scored on a second ball blast and Mossing snapped off three straight aces to make it 20-7.
Rachael Noe got into the act with an ace before again sister Alyssa scored a second ball slam before Eisel scored again, this time ending the match the same way she started it, with a bullet from the left that put Evergreen into the history books as their first trifecta of volleyball league titles.
Wulf stated after that this was only one of the goals her girls had starting the season.
“The tournament is upcoming and yes the draw was tough. Now that we have our first goal accomplished we have a week and a half (to) focus in on the tournament and get ready for either Archbold or Ottawa Hills.”
The Vikings, who finish the regular season 20-2, will host a Division III sectional final next Saturday, Oct. 24, at 6:30 p.m., playing the winner of that Archbold and Ottawa Hills match.
Joe Blystone can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org