It was a volleyball match..or supposedly a mismatch…in which Swanton had the height and power advantage with arguably the most potent threesome of hitters in the NWOAL over Evergreen.
But the biggest contribution of the night came from the smallest player on the floor as miniature Viking back row player Cece Silvestri brought the Vikings from the depths of a break even third set deficit, and the Vikings went on to beat the Bulldogs 16-25, 25-22, 25-15 and 25-22 in a must win league match Tuesday.
“It felt like we were waiting for them to make a mistake, instead of us doing something positive on the court,” explained Viking coach Kelsey Wulf. “That’s what we talked about in the timeout at the time. After that we started blocking better, we were really scrappy, our defense was fantastic keeping the ball alive. I was really proud of our net play.”
That type of play at the net was non-existent in the first set as Cydney Christensen led a charge with five kills that included a couple of slam blocks at the net that spurred the Bulldogs into a large lead that Sidney Taylor finished out with three shots from the left side in a nine-point win.
However, after Christensen opened scoring in the second set, the Bulldogs committed seven unforced errors around a pair of Lindsay Carr kills and trailed 9-3.
Evergreen returned the favor with four mistakes that sandwiched a Julia Smith slam from the middle and another Christensen kill to let the Bulldogs back into the set at 11-10.
But with Wulf searching for the right combination, Alyssa Noe swatted a shot from the right side and sophomore Kelsie Komisarek, playing her first varsity match, nailed a two-hand push into the corner before another Noe right side kill put Evergreen in control of the set at 18-10.
The Bulldogs made a late charge fueled by Christensen’s tip shot and a block along with Deanna Herr’s left side kill to trail just 23-22 but a lift put Evergreen up set point and Lauren Overfield delivered, drilling an ace to finish it off.
“The first game they were definitely blocking us,” said Wulf. “We had to start thinking outside the box, how are we going to hit around the block, where are we going to hit to, where are we going to tip and throw them off because they are so much bigger than us. We finally figured out a system that worked pretty well.”
Some miscommunication errors and three scores from Christensen boosted Swanton into a 7-1 third set lead before the diminutive 4’11” Silvestri took over.
After Carr nailed a left side shot, the Bulldogs couldn’t come up with a good pass on a Silvestri serve, Lexie Shipman pounded a shot from the middle, a Swanton attack went long, then Silvestri stuck a pair of aces around a combo block by Bailie Sutter and Shipman to give the Vikings an 8-7 lead.
Christensen knotted the score with a kill but an over the top violation, Lexie Truckor’s ace, a Kori Kreuz block then another by Carr put the Vikings up 12-8. Noe stuffed a Bulldog attack after a long rally which nearly every Viking had a dig of a Bulldog attack to put Evergreen up 16-11 before the Vikes added on with yet another Noe block and a Jamie VanLoocke tip bumped the lead five more points to allow the Vikings to coast into the fourth set.
“We actually started blocking them pretty well,” said Wulf. “Our energy was really good.”
Shipman and Christensen traded salvos at the net in a back and forth fourth set that was knotted at 9-9, then again at 10 after VanLoocke and Smith swapped points.
The Vikes got a point from an unexpected source as Truckor rolled a shot over the tape from the back row to give Evergreen a lead but a shot out and Taylor’s left sider regained the lead for Swanton at 12-11.
VanLoocke tied things back up at 13, then a Swanton attack went way long, Sutter painted the sideline with a push and Noe did the same with one on the back line to put Evergreen ahead 16-13.
Then came Carr with another push, a kill from the middle and an ace to help the Vikings to a five point advantage, 21-16.
“Her defensive play was awesome, she was all over the floor,” said Wulf. “With two bad knees she gives us everything she has every point and everyone else just feeds off her and works just as hard as her and they want to work for her as well. When Lindsay tore her first ACL two years ago it was against Swanton and she really wanted this, it was the first time actually playing Swanton so her desire tonight set the bar really high.”
Again Swanton came back with a Smith slam, Taylor’s push and left side sideline shot, and a Christensen block to trail just 23-22.
But VanLoocke ended a scramble with a tip that found the hardwood and a last Bulldog attack went wide giving Evergreen a hard fought victory. This throws the NWOAL race again into a melting pot as Evergreen and Swanton are now both 2-1, trailing Patrick Henry who is 3-0.
“I said this in the beginning that the whole league is an even playing field and whoever wins league will have a loss,” said Wulf. “That may be two or three teams because everyone is so evenly matched.”
The Vikings are off until next Tuesday when they have a home match with Archbold.
Swanton hosts Bryan on the same night.
Reach Joe Blystone at firstname.lastname@example.org