For the longest time it seemed the volleyball team that made the least number of serve-receive errors would win.
In the end it was the team that made the most plays at the net that did win as Evergreen used a trio of late blocks to come from behind in the fourth set to take a 20-25, 25-19, 25-23, 25-22 NWOAL victory over visiting Wauseon before a raucous, tournament-like crowd at Evergreen Tuesday.
“Yeah our blocks sure showed up today didn’t they?,” said Viking coach Nichole Thanasiu. “After that first set we knew we were not dominating at the net so we had to make an adjustment and switch to blocking cross more. That changed the entire game.”
The electric like atmosphere carried over to the court as attack after attack went long for both teams early on before consecutive left-side kills from Naomi Brand brought Evergreen into a 6-6 first set tie.
The teams traded one point leads and ties until Claire Conrad’s ace broke an 11-all deadlock, and Nicole Brand followed with a tip to give the Vikes a 13-11 lead.
Wauseon battled back to knot the score at 17 on Sydney Zirkle’s blast, and went up 20-19 when Zirkle rifled one off a block.
Kelcy Blanchong’s ace and three more Zirkle kills pushed the Indians home in the first set.
Aces from Blachong and Harlee Floss jumped the Indians on top 5-2 in set two but the Vikings answered in a big way.
A triple dose of Nicole Brand aces and Maddie Smith’s dunk block keyed a 9-0 surge to put the Vikings up 11-5.
No less than seven Indian attack, serving and setting mistakes boosted that lead to 19-10 when the Tribe made a run of their own.
Zirkle again went off a block and then Blanchong reeled off four straight aces to get Wauseon back within 19-16.
McKenna Babcock’s shot from the right made it 20-16 but three straight Viking attacks went wide to close the gap to 20-19.
However, it was the Indians turn to misfire as four more errors around Conrad’s push into the left corner made the Vikes a 25-19 winner.
“One hundred percent it seemed like for quite a while it seemed like who would receive a serve would win the match,” explained Thanasiu. “Both teams served very aggressively.”
Nicole Brand’s three kills, one on a solo block and two more from Babcock, helped Evergreen get up 13-6 in the third set.
Again the Indians got on a run.
Zirkle’s dunk on an overpass, Drue Roush’s change-up hit fell in, Aaliyah Glover nailed an ace and Delanie roush recorded a block that brought the Indians to 13-12.
Wauseon passed the Vikes at 19-18 on Zirkle’s mishit that dropped and then took a two-point lead at 22-20 when the senior outside hitter pounded two shots off the block.
Babcock came back with a tip, then after a Wauseon attack went long, Nicole Brand slammed back an attack with an emphatic block to put the Vikes ahead 23-22.
Chelsie Raabe scored to tie the set but Savannah VanOstrand swooped in from the right side for a cross court score and the Indians were called for a double to end the set, giving Evergreen a 2-1 lead.
Again Evergreen got up early in the fourth set as VanOstrand, Smith, and Nicole Brand scored on blocks for a 9-5 margin.
Wauseon came back with two Raabe aces, a quadruple of Zirkle killshots, and a slew of Viking hitting errors to take a 19-16 lead.
But two Indian kill attempts went awry and Kennedi Keifer stuck an ace in the middle on the Indian defense to knot the set 19-19.
Cameron Estep’s tip put Wauseon on top 21-20 before Babcock re-tied it at 21.
It was then that Evergreen became dominant at the net.
Nicole Brand sent back a Wauseon attack to give Evergreen the lead back and then followed that with a stuff to put the Vikings up two.
Conrad and Babcock teamed for a double block to put the set at match point.
Delanie Roush scored to get the Indians within a pair but Babcock’s flying slam ended the match.
“Besides the blocks we were able to get touches on shots that enabled us to treat it like a free ball offensively,” Thanasiu said of her team’s work at the net.
“Blocks right? That’s what won it for us at the end. We were better at the net at the end than in the beginning of the match.
“Playing in front of a crowd like tonight definitely preps us for the tournament. We knew going into this season that our schedule was tough with a lot of D-1 and D-2 teams that were very challenging. But we did all that for the chance to start peaking before the end of the season heading into the tournament.”
Evergreen moved to 9-9 overall and 4-2 in the NWOAL. Wauseon fell to 11-9 and 3-3.
The night before, the Vikings took out Rossford in straight sets 25-22, 25-20, 25-21.
In the second set of that match Conrad recorded her 1,000th assist for her career on VanOstrand’s lazer beam of a kill.
Reach Joe Blystone at firstname.lastname@example.org