Hempfield survives test from Warwick
For the eight seniors on Warwick’s boys volleyball team, Tuesday night represented the final chance for them to beat Hempfield on their home floor.
And when the score was tied at 24-24, 25-25, and 26-26 in game three, with the Warriors and Black Knights deadlocked at 1-1 in the match, that goal was still a very real possibility.
“When we tied it up, that may be the first time, especially for these guys, that Warwick’s been tied with Hempfield one game apiece,” Warrior coach Nate Gajecki said. “So definitely the pressure was on (Hempfield). They needed to execute and we were playing loose.”
Execute is what the Hempfield boys did.
The Black Knights escaped with a 28-26 decision in that game and then wrapped up a 3-1 win in Lititz in the Warriors’ season opener by taking the fourth one, 25-13. In the first two games, Hempfield (25-16) and Warwick (25-18) split.
“The boys wanted this,” Gajecki said. “And I said, ‘You can be sad tonight and then be ready to work.’ We have things that we need to work on and going into this game, we were flying pretty high on our confidence and everything and Hempfield did a nice job taking us out of our system.”
The Black Knights also did a nice job riding the talents of junior 6-foot-2 opposite Ben Naumann, who led all players with 23 kills, and junior 6-foot-2 outside hitter Chris Booth, whose three aces tied Naumann for match-high honors.
Naumann was in the middle of things in game one as Hempfield reeled off a 10-2 run to claim a 12-7 advantage.
“They were serving tough,” Gajecki said of the Knights, “which allowed us not to pass very well. Therefore we couldn’t run our offense. They could set up their defense and run it back at us.”
The Warriors were still within 20-15 following a block by Gavin Schaffer, but an ace by Booth capped a game-ending 5-1 Black Knight spurt to put their 25-16 win in the books.
A kill by senior Paul Berg gave Warwick a 7-3 edge early in game two and then Naumann’s swing cut the Knights’ deficit to 9-7. Later, Hempfield trailed by only three points, 15-12, when Naumann found the floor with a spike.
“(Naumann and Booth) did a nice job,” Gajecki said. “We do a rotation defense where we rotate the guy angle. They did a nice job hitting the ball down the line in the open spot.”
Senior Jon Gonzales did a nice job in his own right for the Warriors. His kill, sandwiched between senior Colton Keller’s tip and senior Zach Gingrich’s game-clinching ace, helped Warwick wrap up a match-tying 25-18 decision. Gonzales finished with five kills in the second game and a team-high 15 for the match.
“Jonathan played a great offensive game,” Gajecki remarked. “He did a nice job. He did a great job at the net tonight and I love his leadership and I want him to continue to play well.”
Keller finished with two blocks, while Schaffer and Gingrich had one ace apiece.
The Warriors were clicking in game three when they rallied from being down by as many as seven points, 15-8 and 16-9. Still trailing 24-20, Warwick scored the next four points to pull even. Gonzales’ kill tied it 25-all and then a Black Knight service error locked it at 26-26.
But Booth’s tip and a Warwick error enabled the Black Knights to escape with the 28-26 victory.
“(Taking the) third game would’ve been great,” Gajecki said. “When you lose a game by one point like that, you change one play and it’s a reverse score. So that’s tough. Definitely the boys wanted that third game.”
With some wind out of their sails, the fourth game got away from the Warriors. After Gonzales’ kill tied it 3-3, the Knights responded with a 13-3 run and never looked back en route to the clinching 25-13 win.
“Unfortunately, we got tight during the fourth game,” Gajecki said. “We went back to bad habits when we start making mistakes. It’s one of the things I preach. I was taught that as well. When you start getting behind, you go back to your bad habits, bad mistakes, and we weren’t doing the little things that made us a good team in the previous game.”
The Warwick boys will now look to bounce back when they travel to Neffsville tonight (Thursday) to play at ManheimTownship at 7 p.m. They will get a rematch against Hempfield on April 17 in Landisville.
“Hopefully we’ll be able to refocus and be ready to go the next time we see them,” Gajecki said.
Bruce Morgan is the sports editor for the Lititz Record Express. He welcomes your questions and comments and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 721-4451.