Evergreen came through with clutch plays when it was needed most, holding off a feisty Tinora team to capture a Division III sectional volleyball title at Defiance with a three-set victory, 25-14, 25-21, 30-28. Meanwhile in the nightcap at DHS, Liberty Center captured it first sectional crown since 2008 after defeating league foe Delta, 16-25, 25-17, 26-24, 25-11.
In the opener, Tinora was down two sets to none but did not quit, building a lead in the third set, 20-19. Haley Timmons notched a kill for the Rams (12-12), and an Evergreen shot into the net pushed the Tinora lead to 21-19. Another score from the Rams extended the lead and forced a timeout from Evergreen coach Kelsey Wulf. Coming out of the timeout,
Evergreen (21-2, ranked No. 15 in the state) quickly responded with a pair of kills by Erica Silveous and Lauren Langenderfer sandwiched around a block by Langenderfer to push the game to a 23-23 deadlock. The teams traded points until Lexi Yeager blocked a kill attempt to put the Rams back in front, 27-26. Taylor Monahan came back with three kills, two of them set up by Tori Fuller, to finally push the Vikings to a 30-28 set win and the title.
"We always go down swinging," said Wulf about her team's mentality in the third set. "The only way we're ever going to win is by staying aggressive and I think that last game really proved it in those last points. Tinora is a good team. They're good competition and we're excited to move on to districts."
After battling the state-ranked Vikings all night long, Tinora coach Kerry Sebring was happy with the effort her team put forward in the final set.
"We were just battling and battling," remarked Sebring. "Evergreen is an outstanding team. Lauren Langenderfer is an amazing player and she's hard to defend. They're amazing and I hope they go far. Kelsey is a great coach out there, and they're just tough. I give them all the props. They hit a few holes a couple times on serves and sometimes that's all it takes to turn it around, but we played tough.
"We were an up and down team all season long," added Sebring. "But I'll tell you what, I love my girls. Sometimes I don't know what I can do without them and they always come to perform. They work hard all the time and my five seniors are going to be greatly missed."
Evergreen will now move on to the Napoleon District to face Otsego on Wednesday at 6 p.m.
"I think we can go far," said Monahan. "I think we all think that and I think that this is our year."
Langenderfer paced the Vikings with 16 kills, 26 digs, and a perfect 12-12 serving. Tori Fuller had 16 assists and eight digs and Danielle Marvin contributed 7 kills, three blocks, and four digs.
Erica Smay had six kills and 22 digs for Tinora, while Haley Timmons racked up 12 kills on 38-42 hitting to go along with seven digs. Mykaela Flory added 21 digs, and Danielle Helberg chipped in with 13 assists on 52-52 setting.
In the nightcap, with the match tied at one set apiece and the crucial third set hanging in the balance, it was senior standout Kaitlann Hogrefe leading Liberty Center (14-9) down the stretch. Down 23-21 and fresh out of a timeout, Hogrefe paired with teammate Niki Meyer to block a Delta attack and pull within a point. Delta responded with a score but let Hogrefe slammed home a kill set up by Lydia Mack to cut the lead to once again.
Another Mack setup led to another Hogrefe kill to pull the Tigers to a 24-24 tie. An unforced error by Delta (16-8) led to yet another Hogrefe score, giving the Tigers a 26-24 win and a two sets to one lead.
"We were down by two when I called a timeout and told the girls we need to get the next four points," explained Liberty Center coach Nikki Bostelman. "We've talked this whole season about hitting goals. We try to challenge the girls and we came out of that timeout and got the next few points."
Hogrefe noted the importance of capturing the tense third set.
"I think we just gained confidence with the last couple points," Hogrefe said. "We took that into the last set and won."
After pulling out the close third set, the Tigers kept the pressure on, overwhelming the Panthers in the decisive set. Hogrefe added four more kills in the fourth set, while Brooke Baldwin added three of her own as Liberty Center prevented Delta from getting any bit of momentum back.
Delta coach Rocky Koenig couldn't pinpoint exactly what kept his team from getting on track in the fourth set.
"I don't know if it's because they had great energy, but they had a lot of confidence," noted Koenig. "Their defense was flying around and they had a player, Kaitlann Hogrefe, who beat us every which way but Tuesday. She's a great player and we were just unable to stop a hot defensive team with an elite player leading the charge"
Hogrefe led the Tigers with 21 kills and 10 digs as well as five blocks. Baldwin added eight kills, while Mack had 40 assists on 106-106 setting to go along with 10 digs.
Salsbury led the Panthers with 15 kills. Amy Miller and Gretchen Burdo each added five kills.
Liberty Center now moves on to Napoleon to take on Genoa at in the district semis on Wednesday at 7:15 p.m.
Evergreen def. Tinora, 25-14, 25-21, 30-28.
Evergreen (21-2)- Lauren Langenderfer 16 kills, 26 digs, 12-12 serving; Brittany Herr 19 assists, 7 digs, 15-15 serving; Taylor Babcock 5 digs, 5 kills, 12-12 serving, 3 blocks; Erica Silveous 3 kills, 5 digs; Tori Fuller 16 assists, 8 digs, 7-8 serving; Danielle Marvin 7 kills, 3 blocks, 4 digs; Millie Silvestri 9 digs, 11-11 serving; Taylor Monahan 6 kills; Carly Truckor 18 digs, 16-16 serving.
Tinora (12-12) - Erica Smay 28-31 hitting, 6 kills, 7-7 serving, 22-22 serve receive, 22 digs; Mattie Martin 10-10 serving, 62-62 setting, 14 assists, 18-18 serve receive, 5 digs; Haley Timmons 38-42 hitting, 12 kills, 10-10 serving, 7 digs; Mykaela Flory 14-14 serving, 27-28 serve receive, 21 digs; Lexi Yeager 21-26 hitting, 4 kills; Hannah Reineke 5 kills; Danielle Helberg 13-14 serving, 52-52 setting, 13 assists; Brittany Steingass 3 digs; Taylor Pedroza 3 digs.
Liberty Center def. Delta, 16-25, 25-17, 26-24, 25-11.
Liberty Center (14-9)- Kaitlann Hogrefe 40-45 hitting, 21 kills, 10 digs, 5 blocks, 13-13 serving; Brooke Baldwin 27-29 hitting, 8 kills; Niki Meyer 20-22 hitting, 6 kills, 23-23 serving; Sondra Prchlik 11-13 serving, 10 digs; Ashley Bowers 10-10 serving, 13-16 hitting, 6 kills, 7 digs; Waverly Weaks 9 digs; Alexa Knip 13 digs; Abbie Hall 9 digs; Lydia Mack 10 digs, 106-106 setting, 40 assists; Nicole Pickering 15-16 hitting, 5 kills; Erin Spieth 4 digs.
Delta (16-8) - Alexa Salsbury 15 kills; Amy Miller 5 kills; Gretchen Burdo 5 kills.