NAPOLEON--In a rematch from the regular season, Liberty Center and Evergreen faced each other with a regional berth on the line in the Division III district volleyball finals at the "Grand Canyon" on Saturday night in Napoleon.
What started as a seemingly easy win for the Vikings (23-2), turned out to be anything but as the Tigers (15-10) gave them everything they could handle as Evergreen won 25-18, 25-18, 24-26, 25-22 to earn its first ever district crown.
"It's really exciting," stated Viking coach Kelsey Wulf. "My girls accomplished two big things: a district title and no Evergreen team has ever had 23 wins. There was a lot riding on their shoulders but they came out strong, then got a little lackadaisical at the end but overall it was pretty good."
In fact, it appeared like Evergreen would cruise to an easy win after two quick victories in game one and two. But game three featured intense back and forth action with neither team able to pull away. After two straight unforced errors by Liberty Center, the Vikings grabbed the 20-18 lead. Evergreen benefited from another Tiger error and two kills by Danielle Marvin and Taylor Fuller to make it 23-18. After two errors by the Vikings and one by the Tigers the score stood 24-20 and Wulf used a time out to rally her squad. Instead, Evergreen made three straight errors and Liberty Center took advantage as Kailann Hogrefe made three kills and Ashley Bowers served an ace to grab game three 26-24.
"In the first two sets we were very flat but in the third set I put a lot of pressure on the seniors," explained Tiger coach Nikki Bostelman. "I said, 'you seven seniors need to step up, this could be it for you.' I told the girls to leave their hearts on the court and that's what they did. We like to challenge each other in practice and it makes us better. In the third game I told them to get the next six points and they did so they won that challenge."
Wulf believes that her team started to feel the importance of a victory and it caused them to play tight.
"I think they felt too much pressure and started to make unforced errors," she said. "Kaitlin Hogrefe is an amazing player and she gave us a run for our money."
In game four, Evergreen jumped out to a 19-11 lead before Liberty Center started chipping away at it due in part to six Viking errors. Trailing 24-20, the Tigers put up one last fight as Lydia Mack and Niki Meyer came through with blocks to shave the lead to 24-22. The game ended however, when the Tigers just missed the court on the next volley as the Vikings won 25-22.
The Tigers were focused on stopping the Vikings' major weapon, Lauren Langenderfer but that goal was not accomplished according to Bostelman.
"Defensively, I felt we were a little week tonight," she said. "Langenderfer is an outstanding athlete all the way around. That was our big key, to stop her but she took advantage of us tonight."
Langenderfer led the team with 22 kills while Taylor Babcock had six kills and three aces.
"She (Langenderfer) was the player of the year in the NWOAL and district seven," stated Wulf. "She deserves the ball in her hands and she knows what to do with it."
Hogrefe paced the Tigers with 47-50 hitting, 16 kills, 16-16 serve receive, 10-10 serving, eight digs and three blocks.
"I feel like we made an excellent run in the postseason and I'm very proud of these girls, no matter the outcome," admitted Bostelman. "Either way we wanted a NWOAL school to come out of this district and it looks like that happened so we'll be behind Evergreen 100 percent."
Evergreen advances to the regional semifinals on Nov. 2 at Findlay High School to face Milan Edison at 7:30 p.m.
Evergreen def. Liberty Center, 25-18, 25-18, 24-26, 25-22
Liberty Center (15-10)- Kaitlann Hogrefe 47-50 hitting, 16 kills, 16-16 serve receive, 10-10 serving, 8 digs, 3 blocks; Lydia Mack 37 assists, 11 digs; Ashley Bowers 14-16 hitting, 8 kills; Brooke Baldwin 17-19 hitting, 4 kills; Niki Meyer 12-15 hitting, 6 kills, 10-10 serving; Waverly Weaks 12 digs; Nicole Pickering 9-13 hitting, 5 kills; Alexa Knipp 12-12 serving; Abbie Hill 12-12 serve receive; Erin Speth 16-17 serve receive, 4 digs.
Evergreen (23-2)- Taylor Monahan 8 kills; Taylor Babcock 6 kills, 3 aces; Danielle Marvin 4 kills; Lauren Langenderfer 22 kills; Erica Silveous 4 kills; Taylor Fuller 3 kills.