On a night when the Evergreen community paid tribute to the late Sierah Joughin, the Vikings honored the ex-volleyball star by beating Liberty Center in straight sets, 25-23, 25-21 and 25-16, raising their Northwest Ohio Athletic League record to 3-1.
The Vikes started slow, giving the Tigers seven points on attacks that went out, along with an illegal block and a defensive miscommunication that allowed Liberty to take a 13-10 lead.
KJ Weirauch’s ace and a kill by Sydney Jones expanded that lead to 19-15 before the Vikes got going.
Nicole Brand’s shot from the middle, a solo block from Maddie Smith, Naomi Brand’s shot from the left side, another block by Smith and two hammering blasts from McKenna Babcock brought Evergreen even, 21-21.
After a tiger attack went out, Smith registered her third block to give Evergreen a 23-21 advantage.
Jenna Jones and Sydney Jones brought the Tigers even but Babcock nailed a left-side kill and Nicole Brand stuffed a Tiger shot to end the set.
“It was an emotional night,” said Viking coach Nichole Thanasiu. “We came out very aggressive, maybe a little over excited. But our hitters kind of got back into the groove. We had a number of people that really hit the ball well tonight.”
Nicole Brand’s left-handed tip, solo block and dunk of an overpass at the net helped give the Vikings a 5-1 lead in the second.
However, again the Vikings got on the struggle bus keeping the ball on the court as five more attacks either hit the net or flew out, and the Tigers rebounded to a 12-10 lead.
Michaela Jeffers’ ace boosted the Tiger lead to 14-11, but again this time the Vikes rebounded, led by Savannah VanOstrand.
After a Nicole Brand left-hand swat and a Claire Conrad ace, VanOstrand nailed three straight from the right side to take Evergreen from a three-point deficit to up 17-14.
Weirauch’s ace got the Tigers within 17-16, and the teams traded points until Smith came up big at the net again with yet another solo block to put Evergreen up a pair at 20-18.
“She has improved so much this season,” exclaimed Thanasiu of her 5’11” junior. “Her block timing is getting on point for sure. She changed the dynamic of the game twice. Her blocks in the first set brought us from behind and gave us a lot of momentum, then the big one in the second late in the set got us started on a little run to put it away.”
Naomi Brand’s tip and then a drive down the sideline bumped the lead to 22-18 before Babcock’s screamer put the set away.
“This week we’ve worked hard on getting the twins’ (Nicole and Naomi) timing down and on point as well,” stated Thanasiu. “Naomi really saw the line well tonight with her swings. Nicole did what Nicole does with a number of solid blocks at the net.”
The Vikings broke away from the tight third set on Mikayla Heintschel’s ace and Smith’s kill on the back line to go up 14-10.
Nicole Brand’s block and Babcock’s laser from the left side took Evergreen to a 17-14 lead.
Then up 19-16, Kennedi Keifer’s serves caused havoc with the Tiger offense as Liberty couldn’t get a clean attack system going and knocked four straight shots out or into the net.
Naomi Brand’s tip and one last solo stuff from Smith ended the match.
Evergreen travels to Springfield for the Golden Spike Invitational this Saturday before returning to league action against Patrick Henry next Tuesday.
Reach Joe Blystone at firstname.lastname@example.org