CLAYTON – It took a little bit of doing, but the Versailles volleyball team managed to win another district championship on Saturday.
The Tigers’ opponent in the Division III district finals at Northmont was Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy, a team that had only lost one game all season. It took four sets, but with Versailles used to playing four- and five-set matches in the regular season, and despite some shaky moments, the Tigers made points when it counted to win, 26-24, 25-18, 23-25, 25-17.
This was the fifth straight district championship for Versailles.
“They were a great competitive team to play against,” Versailles coach Kenzie Bruggeman said. “When they put pressure on us, we started to question what we were doing. You could see it on the floor, but we were able to gather ourselves and come out with the win. It was fun today. I am so happy to see the girls get what they set out to do.”
The first set was fairly even. The score was tied a total of 17 times. Neither team had more than a 2-point lead at any point. Versailles seemed to have a problem keeping their spikes in bounds in the first portion of the set. Despite the problems on the front line, the Tigers kept even. Both teams desperately wanted that first set win to gain early momentum and took time outs down the stretch. The Tigers took a time out with the score knotted at 24-all. Whatever was said worked, as Raegen Shaffer got a decisive kill to score 25 and the Eagles had an error to give the Tigers their 26th point and the set.
“We struggled to get in a rhythm,” Bruggeman said. “We weren’t passing well and that is usually one of the strengths of our team. We had a hard time getting our offense established.”
In the second set, Versailles charged out to an early lead thanks in part to Alexa Didier, who had 2 aces as the Tigers scored the first four points under her service. They eventually had a sizable lead, up 17-10, but they relaxed and let CHCA back into the game. The Eagles closed to within three and then it was Lindsey Winner, a dominate player on the front line, who went to work. She helped re-extend the lead with several sizzling spikes and it ended up being a decisive set for the Tigers, 25-18.
“Alexa (Didier) gave us a good start with her service, and the rest of the team began to execute more,” Bruggeman said.
In the third set, the Tigers were slow out of the gate. Being up 2 sets, they may have come off the bench a little over confident. The Eagles gradually grew a 4-point lead before the Tigers woke up and went work. They captured the momentum, but turned around and down the stretch, they uncharacteristically began to commit errors. The Eagles took advantage and managed a 25-23 victory.
“CHCA began to execute more and played well, so now our girls are beginning to realize that they can play with the same energy,” Bruggeman said.
The last set mimicked the first set, for the most part. Close score with several ties and lead changes. A lot of folks had to be thinking – will this go to a fifth set? It was tied 15-all at one point, but with Winner serving the Tigers popped ahead. It was 19-16 and Emma George had a big kill and then the wheels fell off for the Eagles. They would only score one more point while the Tigers would finish strong with five.
“Emma George came out and had a great set overall,” Bruggeman said. “She had a great swing and great energy. It was huge for a sophomore to step up and do that. Abby Stammen played well in this set too. She is so crafty and so quick and she keeps a lot of balls off of the ground. She works so hard on serving and she did well tonight.”
Versailles advances to the regional semifinals where they will take on Miami East at 7:30 p.m. this Thursday at Kettering Fairmont’s Trent Arena.