By Lyle Kittle
LIMA -- Mercer County nearly came away with a clean sweep of the 2004 Kewpee/Bath High School Volleyball Classic, with St. Henry winning it all, Parkway taking second, and Coldwater finishing fifth after a final match loss to Old Fort kept the Cavaliers from the number three spot.
Befitting a tournament final, the St. Henry/Parkway matchup was one of the better matches of the day. The Redskins captured the title with a 25-19, 25-18 victory.
"I was very happy with our play today," Parkway coach Todd Henkle said. "I'm always disappointed when we leave the gym with a loss because I think we're capable of winning each match. It's coming down to our younger players putting it together. We can't miss three or four serves and just give away points. If you do that against St. Henry, well, you can't do that."
The Panthers (8-4) played well, but no team would have been a match for the Redskins on this day. With all facets of its game well, St. Henry (8-3) bowled through opening round opponent National Trail, beating the Blazers 25-8, 25-8 in the middle school gym.
"It (game against National Trail) was probably our most solid performance of the day," Redskins' coach Lori Schweiterman said. "We didn't have a period when we went mentally blank for five or six points. We maintained our focus throughout the match." While that was happening, Parkway was in the high school gym, shredding Lima Senior, 25-12, 25-10, behind a standout performance at the net by Rebekah Roehm, whose 11 first-match kills combined with several Lima Senior errors to drop the winless Spartans to the loser's bracket.
Immediately following that match, Coldwater (6-3) took the floor at the high school to systematically take apart host Bath, 25-11, 25-18, to insure the Cavaliers a spot in the winner's bracket.
In the second round, Parkway and Coldwater squared off for what would be the first of at least three encounters this seasons. The Panthers and Cavs meet in the opening round of the New Knoxville Invitational on Saturday and face off in a Midwest Athletic Conference match on September 30. Another possible confrontation could develop in the postseason.
With the score tied at 5-5 in the first game, Henkle thought he spotted a hole in the Coldwater armor, and decided to attempt to exploit it.
Five consecutive aces from Roehm confirmed the opening, and after winning 25-18, service specialist Diedre Adams took full advantage of it in the second game. Adams went to the service line with Coldwater leading 3-1, and before Coldwater could break through, Parkway led 22-3, with Erika Snyder providing the final point in a 25-6 win that propelled the Panthers to the final.
"Serve receive has been our problem all year," said Coldwater coach Jeannette Vaughn. "It's the thing we work on the most, but we're just inconsistent. Getting over that hump is something we have to do. That (21-point run by Parkway) was just a complete mental shutdown on our part. We weren't setting the ball, we weren't hitting it, we weren't doing anything."
"I didn't realize we had served that many," Henkle said. "When Diedre gets rolling, she can create a run like that because she has a great floater serve. We look for a spot we can use and then try to attack it as much as possible."
St. Henry was on the floor next against Old Fort, with the other spot in the finals on the line. Old Fort had slipped past Northwood in the opening round to move on to the winners' bracket.
The Stockaders put up a strong fight, but like National Trail in the opening round, hadn't the weapons to top the Redskins. St. Henry captured the second round battle, 25-21, 25-22, moving to the championship match and sending Old Fort to the consolation contest against Coldwater.
During the Parkway/Coldwater match that preceded Old Fort's battle with St. Henry, Stockaders' coach Nancy Hoover wasn't just relaxing and enjoying the match. She was furiously taking notes regarding Parkway's attack on Coldwater's serve-receive weakness. The scouting worked with Old Fort taking third in the tourney with a 25-18, 25-20 win over Coldwater.
"The most frustrating thing about this match was that we had control through most of both games," said Vaughn. "We couldn't put the games away when we had the chance. We just struggled all day."
That brought about the championship match, which featured the two teams playing at their best throughout the tournament.
Just as they had in their first two matches, the Panthers put together a strong all-around performance. As strong as it was, the performance wasn't enough to overcome the Redskins.
As big as the play at the net of Lindsay Puthoff, Cami Lefeld, and Kayla Lefeld, and the strong back court play of libero Kylie Elking, the day belonged to the Redskins' setters, Lanee Mikesell and Christa Schwartz.
"Lanee and Christa did a great job of distributing the ball," Schweiterman said. "It takes everybody working well. The kills aren't there without the serves, the serves aren't there without the passes, and so on. Our defense played well, and I thought our blocking was really on today."
Play after play, Mikesell and Schwartz provided the front line attackers with clean opportunities to hammer shots home, and only the play of the Panthers kept the match from becoming a runaway. Adams, libero Cassie Gutierrez, Erica Yoder, and Erika Snyder on the wings and in the back court, and Roehm and Laura Art in the middle put together a performance that would have overwhelmed many teams. But with St. Henry playing at the level it was, Parkway's standout effort represented little more than a speed bump on the Redskins' road to the title.
St. Henry's next action is on the road against Versailles on Tuesday. Coldwater's next match is on Thursday at St. Henry, while Parkway will host New Bremen, also on Thursday.