Evergreen has shared or won outright the last three NWOAL volleyball championships, including 17 straight league matches, making them the big dog on the block.
That’s until a local radio station turned the Vikings from big dog to underdog, predicting a Viking loss to Archbold in the Division III sectional final at Evergreen.
Sometimes it’s best to let a sleeping dog lie.
Incensed by that prediction, like a pack of mad dogs, the Vikings tore into the Blue Streaks, scoring a 25-13, 25-14, 25-19 sweep to advance to the district tournament for the eighth straight season under coach Kelsey Wulf.
“That was a big motivating factor hearing when we were told that Archbold was picked over us,” said Wulf. “Honestly we like motivation like that, it was one of the driving factors.”
Alyssa Ziegler’s change up ace to start the match gave Archbold one of their few leads on the night before like a vicious dog, Eden Eisel began a personal attack of her own on the Blue Streaks.
The 5’9” senior scored on a second time left handed tip, a bullet from the middle, a change up hit in front of the back line, a solo block, and after a Rachael Noe ace, Eisel finished her salvo with another shot from the middle to make it 6-1.
“She is definitely hitting her high point right now,” Wulf said of one of her senior leaders. “She started off the season well, but she definitely is playing her best volleyball right now. We need all of our players to be playing our best volleyball right now.”
Andi Peterson’s shot from the left side and a pair of Viking hitting errors around a Kori Kreuz kill closed the gap to 7-4 before the Vikings erupted again.
This time it was Haili Mossing scoring from the left side, and Eisel aced the Blue Streaks three times to blow the lead up to 13-4.
Three Evergreen shots missed the court to close the gap to 13-7, but Mossing became the lead dog in an 8-0 run to blow the set wide open.
She began her assault with a kill from the left, then another that left a vapor trail down the sideline before scoring a solo block and another left side shot off a Streak block attempt to make it 21-7.
Back-to-back aces from Mossing and a Kaela Fauble kill from the middle countered Brooke Aeschliman’s ace and an Allie McQuade kill, and after Peterson got Archbold within 11 with consecutive kills, Fauble put away the first set with a shot from the right side.
The second set started the same way as the first as Mossing marked three kills including a first ball slam at the net that gave the Vikings an 8-2 lead.
Peterson countered with a scoring tip and an ace, but Fauble answered from the left side and Mossing scored off an Archbold block and on a dunk to make it 11-4.
The next Viking hit went out but Fauble started a 7-1 run that put Evergreen in total control with a booming hammer shot from the middle.
A second Fauble kill, Megan Floyd’s left side shot and a Noe ace blew the set open at 18-7.
Two kills from the left and one from the middle by Peterson along with Ziegler’s second ball stick inside the back corner drew Archbold within 21-13, but Mossing scored down the left sideline and Eisel nailed an ace to boost the lead back to 10.
Peterson scored once more from the middle but Sydney Northrup’s overpass fell to wood for the VIkings and Mossing’s shot from the right off a blocker finished the set.
“Eden and Haili have always been very reliable and very consistent and they swing hard as does Kaela, they are able to finish what our defense starts,” explained Wulf of her senior hitters.
A pair of Delanie Driver kills from the right, one from Aeschliman from the left and a fourth by Peterson in the middle gave Archbold the biggest lead they would get in the match at 6-3 starting the third set.
A Fauble left side swing and a Mossing tip helped the Vikings regain the lead at 8-7, forcing an Archbold timeout.
“When we had the lead at 8-7 and they called timeout, I told them we have to focus on keeping the lead and never again are they going to come back into this game and luckily we were able to push ahead a point at a time,” stated Wulf.
“In the first two sets I felt we had control and judging by the score we obviously did. The last time we played them we waivered a lot of times and had a lot of miscommunication errors and let them back in the game which has been kind of been our thing all season, we get ahead and let people back in the game. I told them we really need to focus on keeping the lead.”
This time it was the Vikings 6’1” long dog taking over as leader of the pack as Fauble scored from the middle and on a right side slam that put Evergreen up 11-8.
“She has come a really long way through her career and luckily she is where Eden is hitting her high point right now and its good timing which will hopefully carry us through Wednesday.”
Noe’s third ace of the night made it 12-8 before the teams traded multiple hitting errors, leaving Evergreen with a 17-12 lead.
Archbold made a last ditch run as Macey Rupp hammered two cross court kills and Jillian Schweitzer nailed an ace dirung a 5-1 Streak rally that closed the gap to 18-17.
However a bad set, two hitting errors, and a Mossing change up serve that fell for an ace put Evergreen up 22-17.
Rupp and Peterson each scored once more, but three Archbold hitting mistakes, including the final two finished the match.
Archbold finishes the season 11-13 while the Vikings, now 21-2, advance to the Perrysburg District to play Otsego Wednesday night in the second match following the Swanton and Eastwood match that begins at 6:30 p.m.
Joe Blystone can be reached at [email protected]