By Jeremy Schneider
They left with a shot at a district championship, and they came home with a police escort.
For the first time in nearly two decades, the Maumee volleyball team claimed an OHSAA Division II district title, beating Toledo Central Catholic 3-2 on Thursday at Ottawa-Glandorf High School.
“It’s something you can’t describe,” Maumee coach Lindsay Vannett said. “… It’s kind of a feeling no one can really name right now, but it feels really good. And it’s another checkmark off our list, on to the next gym.”
The Panthers improved to 19-7 with their seventh win in the last eight games, but none were bigger than Thursday. The program last won a district title in 2003, the same year as their state final four appearance.
After Maumee won close sets 26-24 and 25-20 to take a 2-0 lead, the Irish evened the match with 25-23 and 25-13 wins in the third and fourth sets. The Panthers rallied from those two losses to take a 15-8 win in the fifth and deciding set.
In what’s become a common theme for Vannett’s team this year, they focused on their side of the court in their victorious sets.
“That’s what happened in the first, second, and fifth, because in the third and fourth, we didn’t take care of our side. It showed,” Vannett said.
Heading into the fifth set, Vannett said she didn’t get much of a chance to speak to her team. But that wasn’t a problem — the team had already huddled itself up and began discussed what it needed to do in the fifth.
“They were already amping themselves up off to the side, and Angie (Wannemacher), my assistant, barely got a word in with them,” Vannett said. “They were doing all these things with each other that we didn’t have to say anything to them, really.”
Once again, junior Brynn Brown led the Panthers with a complete stat line, posting team highs in digs (23) and aces (5) while adding 20 kills and 18 assists. In the postseason, Brown has totaled 52 kills, 51 digs, and 66 assists.
But according to Vannett, Brown’s biggest impact Thursday was her vocal leadership on the court.
“She was very vocal in all five sets and the kids were very responsive,” Vannett said. “At times it was needed because I was out of timeouts, and she was the person they needed to hear because it sparked something in them when we needed it. Her leadership really came through tonight.”
The entire team stepped up against the Irish, with sophomore Jolie Sobb leading the Panthers with 22 kills and adding 10 digs, upping her postseason totals to a team-high 58 kills with 30 digs.
Freshman Katelyn Owens had five kills and three blocks, while classmate Camy Wedge had a team-best 21 assists and eight digs.
The three seniors adding solid nights as well. Ashley Arndt led the team with five total blocks and five kills, Chloe Bunce had 13 digs and two service aces, and Jessica Perrault had four kills and four blocks.
Junior Beth Brady had 12 digs.
The Panthers will play in a Division II regional semifinal at 6 p.m. Thursday in Lexington against the winner of Saturday’s Parma Heights Holy Name-Bay Village Bay match. Holy Name, ranked No. 5 in the final state poll, is the defending state champion.
No matter who Maumee faces next, the time between matches is a blessing.
“There are some things that really broke down tonight, and we’re like, We need to focus on this and this and this, so it gives us time to get to the next opponent,” Vannett said.
“The problem is, it doesn’t leave you much time after Thursday to get to your Saturday game, if you win. That’s the only downfall, but a lot of prep this week going into both of those matches.”
And the extra few days also give the girls a chance to celebrate their history-making win.