By Jeremy Schneider
It wasn’t going to be an easy route to the district championship, but as the old saying goes, anything worth having is worth working for.
The Maumee volleyball team defintely worked hard and earned a second straight Division II district championship, beating host Lima Shawnee 3-1 (25-27, 26-24, 25-17, 25-15).
As the fourth seed in the tournament, Maumee had to beat the top seed Central Catholic and second seed Shawnee. They advanced to the regional tournament, where they’ll face Sandusky Perkins at 8 p.m Thursday in Lexington.
At first, it appeared as if the pressure and weight of the moment would get the better of Maumee (16-10). They held leads in the first set but ended up going in a 1-0 hole.
“We started a little shaky and a little nervous, and you could tell the nerves got the best of us in the first,” Panthers coach Lindsay Vannett said. “But then we had a little chat and we took a deep breath and relaxed, and we turned into the team I knew we could be all along.”
It was another back-and-forth set in the second, but Maumee climbed back into the match with the win. They started quickly in the third set, setting a tone that would last through the end of the match.
“We skated out of that second set by the skin of our teeth, but when we scored the first five points of the third set, we’re like, OK, we can be us tonight,” Vannett said. “They didn’t take their foot off the gas pedal. They built their leads and kept them.”
As has been the case through much of the season — and especially their current eight match winning streak — once the Panthers get on a roll, they continue to get stronger and stronger, getting stronger as they go along.
“That’s a byproduct of the way we practice,” Vannett said. “We work on building those momentum runs like that so that way if it happens in a game, we know how to respond.”
The Panthers service game was on point, totaling 14 aces. Katelyn Owens and Brynn Brown each had four aces, Jolie Sobb had three, and Camy Wedge added two.
Vannett said she was concerned about the strong middle hitters for Shawnee, and getting strong serves over the net effectively neutralized that advantage.
“When you’re serving aggressive and they can’t run their middles, you’re primarily worrying about one hitter, so it makes your defense that much easier,” Vannett said. “When we’re in this situation, we can eliminate hitters by getting them out of system.”
Owens had a monster game, leading the team with 16 kills and adding two blocks.
Brown came home with 15 kills, 22 assists, and 12 digs, and Sobb had 19 digs, eight kills, and two blocks.
Wedge led the Panthers with 22 assists, and seven digs. Kylie Miller added eight digs and five assists. Maddie Kontak totaled nine digs and eight kills.