After 25 long years, the wait is finally over for the Wauseon volleyball program. The Indians clinched a share of their first Northwest Ohio Athletic League title since the 1993 campaign, doing so with a 25-14, 25-20, 16-25, 25-13 win at Swanton Tuesday night.
Wauseon and Evergreen are co-league champions.
“I knew it wasn’t going to be easy,” said Wauseon coach Bill Blanchong after the match. “They (Swanton) are a well-coached team. I was expecting a fight coming in here for sure. We got those first two, I was hoping to get it in three, but we just got kind of out of system a little bit. That was to Swanton’s credit. But, we made a couple of adjustments in that fourth game. Just got back on being aggressive. Making less unforced errors, which is what we needed to do.”
Whoever scored first ended up winning each game, and luckily for Wauseon, they did so three times.
In the first set, the Bulldogs could not overcome 14 errors and the play of Wauseon’s hitters.
“I knew coming in it was gonna be a tall task because we were down one of our leaders tonight. We were missing Abby (Arnold),” said Swanton mentor Kyle Borer. “Kind of a makeshift lineup on the spot. The first set, we start off, and we’re not blocking, we’re out of position defensively, and (Lexi) Sauber goes off for five kills before she rotates to the back row. And with that, we’re making errors ourselves. Just miscommunications and hitting the ball out of bounds and stuff like that. A lot of unforced errors.”
The next set the Indians built comfortable leads multiple times, including a 22-14 advantage after a pair of kills from Chelsie Raabe. But, the Dogs would fight back one last time.
A Wauseon hitting error, Jessica Dohm’s ace, plus Ashlynn Waddell’s kill and another Indian miscue brought them within 22-18. It also forced a timeout from Blanchong.
However, a pair of kills from Wauseon’s Sydney Zirkle and another by Maddie Trejo helped them pull away to a 25-20 win.
Swanton would turn that momentum over to the third game where they issued a dominating performance.
“Control our own side of the net,” said Borer on the message to his team prior to game three. “They are gonna get their kills here and there, but if we can control our side, our unforced errors and all that stuff, we should be fine. But, I did change the lineup up a little bit. Just switched a couple people. You can say that made a difference, but it was the same lineup as the fourth set.”
They took over midway through the set starting with a pair of Wauseon errors. Ellie Beroske then tacked on a pair of right-side kills to extend the Bulldog lead to 15-7.
The Indians got no closer than six points from that point on, as Swanton went on to win 25-16.
Wauseon recaptured their magic in game four, breaking away early on a 5-0 run. A Bulldog serving error started it, Sauber followed with back-to-back kills, Tamera Smith fired a shot from the middle and Sauber capped it off to make it 7-2.
The Indians pushed their lead to double digits by the end of the set, winning by 12 to capture the league crown.
“Bottom line, it’s just really about execution,” said Blanchong on the difference down the stretch. “The team that is most aggressive, the team that makes the least amount of errors, is gonna be the team that comes out on top every single time. I just really had them try to get themselves re-centered. We had a really good start in that fourth game, which really helped us a lot I think.
“It’s just fantastic. You can’t ask for more than a league title. Now we get ourselves ready for tournament. We’re hoping to get back to districts. And I think we have a really good shot at doing something at tournament too. By no means is it (the season) over. But, this (a league title) has been a goal since I took over the program.”
Reach Max Householder at 419-335-2010