Winning the National Trail Conference regular season crown always seems inevitable for the Windsor (Stewardson-Strasburg) volleyball team.
However, to win the championship Tuesday night, the Hatchets were in for a fight that head coach Ronda Schlechte did not expect. WSS defeated St. Anthony in three sets to improve their record to 15-3 and 8-0 within the league.
“It was more intense. They shut our middles down, so we had to work and move people around to make things work,” Schlechte said. “They put up a good fight. They had the big block; we couldn’t block, so that was kind of our downfall. Then, Brianna [Hewing] hurt her ankle, so moving her to the right side and Kaylynn back to the middle, it worked tonight, but it was a fight every point.”
Every set, except for the second, was a nail-biter.
The Hatchets won the first 25-21 before the Bulldogs took the second, 25-15, forcing a decisive third.
“We messed up all across the board,” said Schlechte of her team’s performance in the second. “Our pass wasn’t there; we struggled with that, and I think it was more of a mental game at that aspect that we couldn’t get and produce what we needed to produce. But, they were able to come back in that last set, so I was happy with that.”
However, it didn’t take long for WSS to figure out their mistakes, as they regrouped to win the final set 25-21.
“They played a little tight,” said St. Anthony head coach Cathy Wenthy on how she felt her team played. “At times, they relaxed and sat back on their heels instead of staying forward on their feet. I’ve seen the girls play at a higher-end, and I’m sure they’ve seen their girls play at a higher-end, too.
“We gave them too many free balls. We’ve got to create and score. You can’t just put the ball over because they’re going to run the offense. We only hit a .143, so we need to hit a little bit higher.”
The Bulldogs finished with 29 kills, led by Abbi Hatton’s 11. Lucy Fearday added seven, while Ada Rozene had five, Ana Faber four, and Maddie Kibler and Andrea Rudolphi each with one.
What they lacked in hitting, they made up for with defense, though.
St. Anthony (16-6, 6-2 National Trail Conference) had 14 blocks for the match, which caused problems for many of the Hatchets’ hitters, especially Halle Moomaw — who finished with nine kills.
“Halle can normally find the angles in the middle, but they had a nice, solid block,” Schlechte said. “So, that hurt us, but our outsides helped us out tonight, and they led the show with the attacks and trying to get the angles. We ran our middles to the right side to try and get the angle on that side. That way, we aren’t going straight down the middle.”
Overall, WSS had 43 kills, led by Gabby Vonderheide, who pounded 15.
Natalie Hayes finished with eight, Hewing had six, Ella Kinkelaar had four, and Carey had one.
Defensively, the Hatchets didn’t let many balls hit the floor, either, as they finished with 74 digs.
Libero Kinley Quast had a team-high 25, while Vonderheide had 14, and Kinkelaar and Hayes each had 12.
Kinkelaar also joined Vonderheide with a double-double for the match by dishing out 34 assists.
WSS returns to the floor Saturday in the Shelbyville and Pana Invite, while the Bulldogs play on Thursday at Cisne.