ALBION — Fairfield stuck to its plan and came out with another volleyball sectional title.
The Falcons defeated Prairie Heights 25-18, 25-21, 25-13, Saturday in the championship match of the IHSAA Class 2A Sectional 36 volleyball tournament at Central Noble.
That’s 16 sectional crowns for Fairfield, including three in a row.
“We played really well (Saturday),” said Falcons coach Brittany Herschberger, whose team earned its way to the finals by beating Westview 25-13, 25-12, 25-14 early Saturday. “We’ve been practicing a game plan all week and they all came and did their jobs very well.”
From playing Prairie Heights twice during the regular season and scouting, Herschberger and her assistants determined that they wanted to attack the right side of the court.
“We wanted to set our middles as much as possible and play defense like crazy and they did it,” Herschberger said. “We’re very scrappy. It’s a very good defense.”
Fairfield bested Prairie Heights 25-23, 25-7, 25-18 in a best-of-five match Sept. 9 and the Panthers downed the Falcons 25-15, 20-25, 15-12 in a best-of-three in the Northeast Corner Conference tournament Oct. 9.
“The last time we played them one of their really good hitters got hurt in the first set. The next two sets they didn’t have her and were kind of shaken by that,” Herschberger said. “(Saturday) was a totally different game. I had confidence we’d outlast them in a five-set match.”
Fairfield (20-10) advances to the four-team Class 2A regional at Bremen this Saturday, Oct. 23. Fairfield meets No. 1 Andrean (28-5) at 11 a.m., followed by North Judson-San Pierre (11-18) against South Central (27-6). The regional final is slated for 7 p.m.
Herschberger hinted how her team earned a sectional title and why it has an opportunity for more.
“We play a tough schedule,” Herschberger said. “It helps us play against good teams and learn how to outlast them and have long rallies, block and do the little things that we have to do to be ready at this time of the year.”
The Falcons have six seniors on the tournament roster – Kate McGuire, Iris Miller, Brooke Sanchez, Sydney Stutsman and Ella Weatherton.
Stutsman produced 31 assists as Fairfield’s setter and had two service aces, including the match-winning point.
“It was just the whole team that made my life easier,” Stutsman said. “They were on-point with their passes and the hitters were amazing in getting the ball in the spots where we practiced.”
Stutsman addressed the chemistry of the Falcons.
“From the freshmen to the seniors we’re all best friends,” Stutsman said. “We all get along. We have so much fun together and we just work together.”
Junior Brea Garber powered for 17 kills in Saturday’s championship match and talked about her team’s performance.
“We had to focus on one game at a time,” Garber said. “It started with Westview. They’re a scrappy team. We’ve got to be aggressive on our end and attack them.
“Prairie Heights was tough competition so the same thing. We knew we had to outlast them. Defense was key for us. We had to get everything up. We were just really aggressive on offense and really scrappy overall.”
Prairie Heights, coached by Tina Sailor, was aiming for its 20th sectional championship (first since 2018). The Panthers (24-8) beat Eastside 25-14, 25-12, 25-15 in Saturday’s semifinals.
2021 Volleyball Sectional 36 — championship results
(At Central Noble)
FAIRFIELD def. PRAIRIE HEIGHTS 25-18, 25-21, 25-13.
Fairfield: Aces — Sydney Stutsman 2. Assists — Stutsman 31. Kills — Brea Garber 17, Morgan Gawthrop 9. Blocks — Ella Weatherton 3, MaKenna Steele 2. Digs — Kate McGuire 17, Gawthrop 16, Brooke Sanchez 13.
Records: Fairfield 20-10, Prairie Heights 24-8.
Semifinals: Fairfield def. Westview 25-13, 25-12, 25-14; Prairie Heights def. Eastside 25-14, 25-12, 25-15. Records: Westview 9-21, Eastside 9-17.