Just a few games away from state, the Mercer volleyball team played Washburn on Thursday, Oct. 31 in a rematch from Oct. 1.
Halloween was the perfect night for Mercer-Washburn part two during sectional semifinals. The Tigers beat Washburn 3-0 on Oct. 1.
“They’re coming in here after we beat them in conference,” coach Robyn Schoeneman said.
This time, it was Washburn getting the best of the Tigers, winning 3-1 (25-21, 20-25, 19-25, 16-25).
The Tigers got off to a good start, taking the first point thanks to a tip kill from Ava Barton.
A few plays later, Aubrey Schoeneman powered one that was blocked out of bounds for a Tiger point.
Samantha Barton showed her strength at libero once again. She had an ace, then followed that up with a big time dig.
A couple more Tigers got in on the action. Ava Barton dug one up, Ella Torkelson set it up and KD Knipp powered it down for the kill. Tigers led 7-4.
“Our passing was what was key and was working well,” coach Schoeneman said. “We were in control and everything just seemed to work really well and it was exactly what we had planned on.”
Washburn did go on a 3-0 run to tie it at 7-7, thanks to a kill from Caitlin Wheeler.
Trying to take back the lead, Haley Allen dug one, Torkelson passed it and Ava Barton had another tip kill.
Then, Molly Hohner had a dig, Torkelson passed it and Zoe Botes had the kill. Everyone was passing and getting in on the action.
Washburn went on another little run to take a 16-15 lead thanks to aces by Meghan Dougherty and kills by Lily Wheeler.
The Tigers closed it out from there, finishing on a 10-5 run. Aubrey Schoeneman finished set one for the kill and took a 1-0 lead.
“We had worked the entire week on what it is we needed to do and we did that,” coach Schoeneman said.
Set two became even more close. The lead switched back-and-forth multiple times throughout the set. Washburn needed a win for the tie and the Tigers wanted to take a commanding lead.
The Tigers took a 4-3 lead thanks to a Ava Barton dig, Torkelson pass and Jessica Klopatek kill.
Once tied at 7-7, Torkelson tipped one over for a point. That was followed by an Ava Barton kill. But here came Washburn. They took a 17-14 lead and the Tigers took a timeout.
“Our passing was really off, we couldn’t get the passes to the setter and (when) you’re always on defense it’s hard to score, it’s hard to score points,” coach Schoeneman said.
The Tigers briefly took the lead again, but Washburn was too strong. Lexi Barningham had multiple aces and Dougherty finished off set two for the win. Washburn tied it up 1-1.
From that point forward, the Tigers would not have the lead for the rest of the match.
“Washburn started believing in themselves a little bit more than we were believing in ourselves,” coach Schoeneman said.
Trying to get going, Ava Barton had a pass to Torkelson who passed to Botes for the kill.
Washburn responded with two tough, angled kills from Caitlin Wheeler and AnnaMarie Wright. Washburn led 7-2.
“They had suspected scouted very well,” Schoeneman said. “They knew where to put the ball, they knew where we were open.”
The game got sloppy with numerous errors until Knipp and Botes had kills. Washburn still led 13-11.
Aubrey Schoeneman had two kills towards the end of the match to bring it to 23-15, but Washburn was too strong, finishing off for the win and a 2-1 lead.
With their backs against the wall, the Tigers needed to win two sets in a row to save their season. This time, Washburn got out to a 5-0 lead.
Finally getting some momentum, Aubrey Schoeneman took a pass from Torkelson and attacked for the kill. Tigers were down
Then, Washburn’s Dougherty and Caitlin Wheeler started making more plays. Washburn was on their game and took a 14-5 lead. The Tigers called their second timeout.
“I’ve always said the hardest team to play is one that doesn’t have anything to lose,” coach Schoeneman said. “We were a little surprised, but they played well tonight. They were very difficult to find a way to stop.”
There was still hope when the Tigers went on a mini 4-0 run thanks to a tip shot from Torkelson and a kill by Aubrey Schoeneman. Washburn still led 16-10.
Kills by Knipp and Ava Barton made the score 23-16, but it wasn’t enough. Washburn won on an ace and won the match.
Even though it was a heartbreaking loss, coach Schoeneman was proud of her team.
“It’s been unbelievable,” coach Schoeneman said. “This journey with this group of kids has been phenomenal. There’s a lot of great memories that will last a really long time.”
Brett LaBore may be reached at [email protected] or [email protected]