By GREG KEIM firstname.lastname@example.org
---- — WARSAW — The Northridge Raiders and the Elkhart Central Blue Blazers moved on to Saturday’s semifinals in the Class 4A girls volleyball sectional at Warsaw Community High School Thursday night.
Northridge topped the Goshen Redskins 25-7, 25-14, 25-14 in the first game while Central was a 25-16, 25-23, 25-11 winner over Concord in the nightcap.
The sectional continues at 11 a.m. Saturday morning with Northridge (26-7) facing Central (26-3) followed by Warsaw and Elkhart Memorial 30 minutes after the conclusion of the opener. Winners square off for the championship at 7 p.m.
Northridge got an incredible all-around game from senior Morgan Miller, who totaled three aces, 16 setting assists, nine kills and 10 digs.
“Morgan is a six-rotation player,” Northridge coach Jodie Steele said. “She has tons of talent. She can hit, block and pass.”
The Raiders played with a lot of enthusiasm, celebrating and cheering after each point was scored.
“Energy is huge in this sport,” Steele said. “We get excited for hustle plays. There are a lot of ups and downs in the sport.”
Match one was a matchup of the more experienced Raiders and the less experienced Redskins.
“We were nervous and let Northridge get to us,” Goshen coach Kelsey West said. “Northridge is a great team and they are hard to defend.”
The Redskins were more competitive in the third set. Northridge was leading 20-5 before Goshen got the score to 24-10. The Redskins held off eight match points before a serving error gave the final point to the Raiders.
“That was more indicative of how we can play,” West said. “The girls that were on the floor at that point were talking to each other. We need to communicate with each other on the court and we were just too nervous early on to do that. When we don’t talk we don’t move. It’s hard to watch when we don’t talk.”
Goshen played a defense that is designed to take away tips.
“Some people call it a tip defense,” West said. “We talked about changing defenses, but Northridge is so athletic they hit right over our blockers. Their hitters find the spots and that makes them hard to defend.”
Goshen finishes 9-24 in West’s first season at the helm.
“We need to work on being more of a team,” the coach said. “We have girls that are athletic.”
Central got a strong performance from senior Azariah Stahl as the Purdue recruit accumulated 22 kills and three blocks in the win over Concord.
“I liked the way we kept fighting back and the way we stayed focused,” Blue Blazer coach Yolanda Stahl said. “We kept reminding them to stay focused on what we needed to do. There were times we were a little too tight and we made some focus errors.”
Central defeated Concord in four games during the regular season.
“We played ten times better tonight than when we played them during the season,” Concord coach Laurie Rhoades said. “But we still had some untimely errors that put us in a hole.”
Concord finishes 21-13.
“We are still a pretty young team with two seniors and only one of them played tonight,” the coach said. “We are looking for good things in the next couple of years.
“We went through a lot of adversity this season. We lost some players and we had some injuries. The first time we played Central (sophomore) Frankie Rodino and (junior) Gabby Staggs didn’t play. The girls have all been true to each other and we have stayed like a family. It’s sad to end on a loss, but that always happens unless you win a state championship.”
Aces — Annie Bachman 3, Morgan Miller 3. Assists: Carlee Christner 17, Morgan Miller 16. Kills — Kelly Miller 14, Morgan Miller 9, Taylor Coulter 6. Digs — Morgan Miller 10, Hannah Kistler 9, Annie Bachman 8. Blocks — Taylor Coulter 3.
Assists — Caitlin Alwine 13, Courtney Troyer 8, Natalie Evans 5. Kills — Kayci Troyer 5, Calsey Gruzdov 5. Digs — Caitlin Alwine 13, Courtney Troyer 8, Natalie Evans 5. Blocks — Calsey Gruzdov 1.
Aces — Ciana Bonfiglio 1, Nicole Chupp 1, Cassidy Higgins 1, Tyler Roberson 1. Assists — Holyn Eldridge 15, Nicole Chupp 10. Kills — Tyler Roberson 8, Mackenzie Granitz 7. Digs — Ciana Bonfiglio 13, Holyn Eldridge 11, Mackenzie Granitz 9. Blocks — Tyler Roberson 3, Gabby Staggs 3.
Aces — Olivia Jenks 2, Allison Delks 1, Carson Mcafee 1, Taylor Shreiner 1. Assists — Taylor Shreiner 37. Kills — Azariah Stahl 22, Andrea Hunsberger 4. Digs — Katharine Cobb 14, Allison Delks 10. Blocks — Azariah Stahl 3, Madison Vaught 1, Jenai White 1.