By GREG KEIM
THE GOSHEN NEWS
FORT WAYNE —
Thoughts of last year’s regional finale had to be in the minds of the Fairfield High School girls volleyball team.
Last year in the regional the Falcons won the first two games before dropping the next three to the Fort Wayne Concordia Cadets.
Fairfield started out the same way Tuesday night in the Class 3A regional at Concordia by winning the opening two sets by identical 25-23 scores. The Cadets then won the next one 26-24, but this time the Falcons took the fourth-and-deciding set by a 25-19 score.
“I didn’t want the girls knowing this, but last year was going through my mind,” Fairfield coach Carla Herschberger said. “Coming out of the huddle before the fourth set I heard one of the girls say this isn’t going to be like last year.”
“The thought went through my mind, but we were determined not to let what happened to us last year happen again,” Falcon junior Haley Brown said.
Fairfield (34-1) advances to the Plymouth semistate on Saturday. The No. 7 Falcons will meet unranked Andrean (28-7) in the first semifinal at 11 a.m. The second one matches unranked South Bend St. Joseph (30-6) and No. 1 Yorktown (33-3). The championship at 7 p.m. is for a berth in the state championship in Worthen Arena on the Ball State University campus in Muncie.
“I think the difference this year is Concordia had a lot of sophomores and freshmen while we had seniors that had been through this before,” Herschberger said.
The Falcons had to rally from a 22-17 deficit to win the second set.
“Going up 2-0 was huge for us, but we told the girls the first two wins don’t mean a thing if we don’t win the third one,” Herschberger said “We were more mentally prepared for this. A year ago, the girls didn’t seem to want to make the adjustments we needed during the match. Tonight they made them.”
“It’s amazing. The best feeling ever,” said freshman Alexis Zook about winning regional.
The youngster played a key role in the match with some pinpoint serving.
“Brownie’s (Haley Brown) shoulder is hurting,” Herschberger said. “I asked her if it hurt when she served. She told me no, but that she didn’t have much confidence in her serve. I told her there were good servers on the bench. I give her a lot of credit as a junior letting a freshman take her place.”
Zook came in a dished up an ace to give her team a 20-17 lead in the fourth set.
“She (Zook) is so great,” Brown said. “I knew she could handle it. I had total faith in her.”
Zook got back to the serving line with Fairfield ahead 23-19. The Falcons notched their 24th point when a Concordia kill landed out of bounds and the 25th on a kill by 6-0 junior middle hitter Sierra Smith.
“At the end of the match we went to Sierra and she came through for us,” Herschberger said.
Smith finished the contest with 11 kills. Brown and senior Ellen Line both had a team-high 17.
“That was another difference,” Herschberger said. “We had several girls to go to for kills while Concordia had a couple. Concordia’s No. 25 (6-2 sophomore middle hitter Tionna Williams) is very good, but we had more variety.”
Senior setter Riley Troyer runs the Falcon offense as she has been doing since she was a freshman. She dished out 49 assists in the regional championship.
According to Herschberger, Zook reminds her of her daughter Courtney, who played for the Falcons. The younger Herschberger is currently a senior at Taylor University where she recently became the program’s all-time leader in digs.
“I saw Zook playing basketball when she was in the second grade,” coach Herschberger said. “The first thing I though was she looks and plays like Courtney. That is one of the reasons why I knew she would come through for us tonight.
“Zook is a player. She practices every day against the varsity and I don’t know how many times Brown and Line have hit her in the face with the ball. If fact we called it getting ‘Zooked’ when someone gets hit in the face.”
According to Zook she fits right in with the upperclassmen.
“The seniors are the nicest girls you would ever want to meet and I love playing with them,” she said. “It was nerve racking being on the serving line tonight, but I knew I couldn’t let them down.”
About the term getting “Zooked” the youngster said “I’ll take whatever I can get.”
In another volleyball regional final involving an area team, Adams Central defeated Westview, 25-24, 25-13, 25-20 in the Class 2A tournament.
Aces — Kaela Miller 4, Ellen Line 2. Assists — Riley Troyer 49. Kills — Haley Brown 17, Ellen Line 17, Sierra Smith 11. Digs — Raina Troyer 24, Kaela Miller 20, Ellen Line 20. Blocks — Haley Brown 7, Kaela Miller 4, Kelsey Schiffli 3.