Times Sports Editor
The battle for Western Indiana Conference supremacy was one for the ages as Northview and Owen Valley went to the wire for the championship.
In the end, it was Northview that had lost a two games to none lead, that found its rhythm in time to win a 25-20, 25-22, 20-25, 21-25, 15-11 match to earn the conference title.
The outcome of the match didn't look like it would be in doubt for very long as Northview jumped out 13-3 in the opening game on the way to a win and then came from behind for a victory in game two.
But looking closely at the second game, Owen Valley had begun to gain valuable momentum that allowed them to get back in the match.
"We came out and went up 13-3 in the first game, but then we had a let down and it was a dogfight the rest of the way," commented coach Scott McDonald. "I thought they outhustled us in the middle games, but I was happiest that we maintained a sense of calm and were able to pull this one out."
In the final game, Northview was the one that seemed to be on their heels as Owen Valley had taken back-to-back games and were getting big points from their key seniors, Sidney Stines and both Heather and Nickole Gonser.
Northview turned the tables on the Patriots to open the final game, grabbing a 5-2 lead early. Brittaney Long smacked one of her team-high 16 kills and Alyssa Clarke followed with one of her six kills.
The lead grew to 9-4 as Owen Valley sent an attack long and suddenly the Patriots were the ones that looked flustered. McDonald felt that conditioning was an important facet of his team's success at the end.
"I think we just wore (Owen Valley) out," said McDonald. "You could see that they were getting tired. We condition like crazy in practice and though we haven't gone five games much, it paid off."
Lizzie Emmert headed off a potential shift in momentum during the final game when the Patriots' Taylore Chestnut served an ace to get her team within 9-6. But Emmert's kill and later a huge block by Clarke at the net, put Owen Valley's backs to the wall.
Long finished the game with a kill that found the floor following a block attempt.
"The interesting thing is that Owen Valley has said that we weren't as good because we lost a lot of girls, but they answered the challenge, which speaks volumes."
What spoke the loudest was the Knights' charge into the lead during the first game. The Knights rode that early emotional burst into a double-digit lead and then withstood a late rally by the Patriots, who got back within 21-19 at the end.
Owen Valley actually led much of the second game by a narrow margin.
Samantha Solomon had two kills in the game to keep the Knights even, but it was a pair of kills by Lizzie Emmert at the end and one by Long that pushed Northview into a 23-22 lead.
A net violation and a shot by Hannah Emmert, one of nine kills by the senior, capped the rally and a two game lead.
The Patriots were in control for much of the next two games, as Stines got on a roll along with the Gonsers and Northview couldn't get much of an attack going. Occasional miscommunications and hitting errors also plagued the Knights as Owen Valley won 25-20.
The fourth game remained close as well, with the Patriots leading 17-14 after a kill from Long. Hannah Emmert ripped an attack right off the backline as Northview stayed within 20-16 late. But the Knights couldn't maintain that momentum.
Hannah Hayes had one of her 12 kills, to go with 28 assists and three digs, but it wasn't quite enough in a 21-25 loss.
The final game saw Northview regain their emotional edge and get back on the attack, which was key according to McDonald.
"We came out with energy and kind of put them in a defensive mode," said McDonald. "I'm mainly happy for the seniors, who didn't get to play as big a role in the WIC titles in the past."
Ashlen Buck came up big on defense with 23 digs with Ali Sharton distributing 19 assists with four digs while Kaylee Clark added three kills and 14 digs. Emily Chiles had 11 digs and Solomon had five important digs in the win.
The JV team also claimed a WIC championship by defeating the Patriots, 25-21, 25-15.
"Maxine West did a great job passing for us," commented coach Greg Mogan. "Kylie McKee had her best game of the season and our service was good all night."
Briana Cook had six assists, Brailyn Whitson had two aces, Samantha Montague had three aces and both Darcy Bass and Stephanie McMains had kills.
The Knights (22-3 overall, 6-0 WIC) travel to the North Montgomery Invitational on Saturday.
Next match: Northview travels to the North Montgomery Invite on Saturday.