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Lady Warriors spike Wilson in District playoffs
By: BRUCE MORGAN Record Express Sports Editor, Staff Writer
The Warwick girls volleyball team’s match against Garden Spot last Monday, Oct. 22 in the L-L League semi-finals will go down as their worst loss of the season.
So how did they respond last Saturday in their first action since that setback?
Only by stepping up with what perhaps might have been one of their best defensive effort of the year.
After suffering a first-game 25-21 loss in a District Three Triple-A first-round match, the 10th-seeded Lady Warriors kept 7th-seeded Wilson’s big hitters Jessie Wallace, Carley Brew and Tiki Miller under wraps and took the next three (25-22, 25-16, 25-20) at Garden Spot High School in New Holland to clinch a berth in the quarterfinals.
"We talked about (the loss in the L-L semis) and we said we’ve got to move on," Warwick coach Jen Wanner said. "We laughed about it, we said when it rains it pours. We know that’s not the kind of team we are and we didn’t dwell on it. We had some really good practices this week and everybody knows — it’s lose and you go home."
Now if the Warwick girls can defeat Exeter (a 3-2 winner over Penn Manor) in the round of eight to get to the District semi-finals, they would set a program record for their deepest run in the playoffs. That match was slated for Tuesday night, but was postponed to last night (Wednesday) after deadline due to Hurricane Sandy.
"I think we’re focused and hopefully we carry that over because Exeter is a good club," Wanner said. "We saw them play and they’re strong and they’re scrappy."
Wilson proved to be a scrappy club in its own right last Saturday, and the Lady Bulldogs took advantage of a 7-0 run in game one — capped by Brew’s kill and block — to grab an early 10-5 lead. But Warwick was resilient and Sarah Rodgers’ ace tied it at 15-all, and then later, a pair of Wilson errors evened things at 19-19 and 20-20. The Wilson girls, though, scored five of the next six points and Wallace’s game-winner put the Lady Bulldogs in the driver’s seat, 1-0.
"We talked about (Brew and Wallace). They definitely go toward them more than anything," Wanner said. "(Miller) didn’t hurt us as much as I thought. I didn’t think they got her the ball a lot at all, and when they did, it was a very diggable ball. I think (Wallace) and (Brew) definitely hurt us tonight more than (Miller) did."
Warwick, though, scored the first point in every game, and in game two, that led to a quick advantages of 5-1 and 12-5. The Lady Bulldogs responded with a timeout to try to halt Warwick’s momentum, but to no avail. Gia Gruett and Greta Weidemoyer recorded kills to bookend what turned out to be a 10-2 run by the Lady Warriors, and Rodgers scored another ace, as they jumped to a seemingly commanding 19-7 cushion.
Slowly but surely, however, the Wilson girls clawed back into it. Starting with an ace by Wallace, the Lady Bulldogs proceeded to answer with a 14-3 spurt of their own, and following a number of hitting errors by the Warwick girls, Brew’s kill suddenly had Wilson within one, 22-21.
"We got stuck in one rotation and we were really predictable," Wanner said. "That’s going to be a rotation that we work on in practice, just to see some different options, because I think we panic and we still want to set our best hitters. I’d like to see be a little more versatile in switching people up and switching serve receive, so we’ll take a look at that and dissect it a little bit … But we took a timeout and we clawed our way out of it."
Indeed they did, as Weidemoyer recorded a kill, then Wilson hit a net serve and Rodgers closed it out with a push into the corner to clinch the 25-22 win.
They built on that momentum with a 3-0 start in game three. Despite the fact that the Lady Warriors had four net serves in that third game, they were able to increase the lead to 11-4 behind an ace by Weidemoyer and then to 16-7 behind a pair of kills by Emily Buckwalter and three Wilson errors.
"I think we were serving very well," Wanner said. "Wilson is a big strong team at the net, but they were struggling a little bit, I thought, on serve receive. Net serves I can live with as long as we’re getting aces and really challenging them with serves that are going over. And I thought we were doing that. For however many net serves we have, we want at least that many aces."
Senior Abby Wenger, who earlier missed a couple weeks of the season with a concussion, led Warwick with three aces, while also chipping in with seven digs. Up and down Warwick’s roster, they passed better than they did in their loss to GS, but Wenger was certainly at the forefront of their improvement.
"Everybody just played better tonight," Wanner said. "Abby’s serve came back. She would be my pick, I think, for most improved player in the last week."
Wilson got as close as six points in game three when they cut their deficit to 17-11, but Emily Buckwalter’s tip finished off a 25-16 decision to give a the Lady Warriors a 2-1 lead in the match.
"I said to them (after game two), ‘It’s a best-of-three right now. We have to win two out of the next three,’" Wanner said. "… I think we really did a nice job adjusting to what they put to us. We really started to pick up the middle tip and we really started to expect it more and read their middle hitters a little bit better. I think tough serving, coupled with that versatility as the match went on, was what helped us."
Plus, It didn’t hurt getting a career-high 23 kills from Weidemoyer, who also added three blocks and seven digs. Buckwalter stepped up with 11 kills, along with eight digs.
"(Emily and Greta) have been our go-to girls all year, and I think that when we pass well, we can set them better," Wanner said. "It’s so hard to put all this pressure on them when we’re not passing well. I think that behind Abby’s good defense and a good strong serve receive, it was definitely what we needed to do and they hit smart, too, mixing it up. They did a good job of keeping Wilson guessing on defense."
That continued in game three, although it was Wilson that took leads of 5-3 and 9-7. Back-to-back kills by Buckwalter and Weidemoyer tied the match and started Warwick on a 9-1 surge. Later, Gruett’s kill, following a block by Weidemoyer, gave the Lady Warriors their biggest lead of the game 16-10.
Five times over the rest of the game, Wilson got as close as three points, the last of those at 23-20. But Weidemoyer’s push into the corner, followed by a long hit by Miller, ended the match. More LADY WARRIORS, page B-3