HAVILAND -- With a Green Meadows Conference title hanging in the balance and both Ayersville and Wayne Trace unbeaten in league play, the teams hit the court on Thursday at Wayne Trace looking to secure a conference championship.
Despite a third-set battle, the Pilots cruised to a three set victory over the Raiders, 25-11, 25-17, 29-27, to claim their first league title since 2005.
"It's unbelievable, it's such a good feeling and we played as a team," explained Pilot libero Stephanie Fishpaw after the game.
With both teams having good seasons, everything rested on one final showdown.
"We definitely knew that Wayne Trace would be tough to play on their court in the last game of the season," explained Pilot coach Julie Gustwiller. "I think we mentally prepared for it and these girls really wanted it. I have six seniors on this team, along with three juniors that mix in beautifully and they all came out and did their part."
After Ayersville (18-3, 7-0 GMC) claimed the first two sets in rather easy fashion, the third set was a must-win set for Wayne Trace (16-5, 6-1 GMC). Trailing 23-19, the Raiders found life behind a misplay by the Pilots, an ace by Krystal Wannemacher, a block by Tanya Sinn and another unforced error to knot the game at 23-23. A barrage of back-and-forth action of defensive saves finally was settled in Ayersville's favor for the next point as Wayne Trace was called for a double hit.
But, the Raiders tied the game on the next series on a Carlee Sinn kill. After several exchange of points and the game leaning in favor of Wayne Trace at 27-26, Ayersville took control for good on two kills by junior outside hitter Emily Cramer and an ace by Kayla Zachrich that sealed the victory and the title.
"I can't really describe it, I've been waiting for this forever," explained Zachrich. "We had all the support and we showed our community what we could do."
That sentiment was echoed by fellow senior Amanda Cook.
"It's been a great four years for us," she said. "To have both teams going into it undefeated and to beat them in three sets, it's great."
The tone seemed to be set early as many unforced errors in game one led to a noticeable trend that continued throughout the match.
"I think the thing we can take from this heading into tournament is we can't sit on our heels in the first game and expect to pull ourselves out of it," stated Raider coach Kim Phipps. "Throughout this season it seems like 70 percent of the time we lose the first set, even on teams that we dominated after. In the next couple of days, we need to work on how to start with a win. We want to thank Ayersville for a great game. They are a great team and it was a lot of fun."
Phipps was concerned even before the match started about how her team would respond because she had noticed a change in her team that she has yet to pinpoint.
"In the last two games coming into this one, we played really flat and I was hoping we would pull out of it before this one," Phipps said. "Even the girls couldn't figure out what made them start to go flat. Our team goal the next few days will be to overcome, I wouldn't say laziness, but our lack of aggression."
Ayersville's defense was able to hold Wayne Trace's offense in check, not allowing its outside hitters to get in a groove and deliver kills.
"I think because of our height, we are not a very big team, I have always stressed defense," Gustwiller said. "They have to be able to dig and pass well for us to win."
Sarah Feasby paced the Raiders, going 10-10 passing with 11 kills and seven digs, while Madison McClure went 12-12 serving and 31-32 passing with eight digs.
Cramer led the Pilots, finishing 35-38 hitting with 18 kills, 8-8 serving and 15-16 passing with eight digs, while Zachrich was 24-24 serving with five aces, 16-18 passing and 20-24 hitting with nine kills, 10 digs and four blocks.
"This is crazy because we did it our eighth grade year and to do it again it is awesome," explained senior Kaleigh Martin. "Especially, because we had younger classmates that were able to be a part of it as well."
The eighth grade GMC title seemed to be on a number of the seniors minds after the game.
"So far it's the best experience of my life except for in eighth grade when we won the GMC," added Kaleigh Hug. "It's so great."
Senior Arica Rohn also remembered the experience.
"It' amazing, I'm just so excited," Rohn said. "We won in eighth grade and it's just so much better winning this way."
At Wayne Trace
Ayersville def. Wayne Trace, 25-11, 25-17, 29-27
Ayersville (18-3, 7-0 GMC) - Emily Cramer 8-8 serving, 15-16 passing, 8 digs, 35-38 hitting, 18 kills; Kaleigh Martin 6-6 serving, 3 blocks, 15-16 hitting, 3 kills; Kaleigh Hug 18-18 serving, 16-16 hitting, 6 digs, 15-16 hitting, 6 kills; Kayla Zachrich 24-24 serving, 5 aces, 16-18 passing, 10 digs, 4 blocks, 20-24 hitting, 9 kills; Amanda Cook 9-9 serving, 13-13 passing, 6 digs, 84-85 setting, 35 assists; Stephanie Fishpaw 7-7 passing, 5 digs; Arica Rohn 8-11 serving, 13-13 passing, 8 digs, 3 blocks, 8-10 hitting, 4 kills.
Wayne Trace (16-5, 6-1 GMC) - Kari Myers 31-32 passing, 8 digs, 12-12 serving; Madison McClure 9-9 serving, 20 assists; Becca Habern 20-20 passing, 4 blocks, 8 digs; Sarah Feasby 10-10 passing, 11 kills, 7 digs; Carlee Sinn 4 kills, 5 digs; Krystal Wannemacher 6 blocks; Sylvia Young 4 blocks.
Reserves: Wayne Trace, 17-25, 25-17, 25-20.