KALIDA — Six Kalida volleyball players played their final home matches at home Thursday night, with Jefferson the non-conference foe.
The host LadyCats grabbed a 25-9, 25-18, 25-16 sweep to end the regular season at 15-7.
Those six 12th-graders were Amy Smith (5 kills, 5 digs, 3 blocks), Bailey Dangler (8 kills, 3 aces, 12 assists), Kayla Siefker (4 kills, 6 digs), Carrie Gerding, libero Julia Vandemark (13 digs) and Andrea Bellmann.
“We all cried before we came out. It’s a sentimental time,” Kalida coach Sherry Luebrecht began. “This has been an enjoyable experience; I didn’t know what to expect when I came on board. The skills have always been there but figuring out what I need to do was key. These seniors have guided me as much as I’ve guided them this year.”
The teams battled on relatively even terms at the start of each set.
“We did play well to start each set. At various points, we went through our mid-set bump that still happens far too often and we just can’t seem to finish,” Jefferson coach Joy Early said. “We just couldn’t fight through, though we kept battling. That’s another positive I saw. They have a lot of good hitters and it’s tough to defend; it would be easy to give up but we don’t. That’s good to see.”
The key run for Kalida in the first set came with them up 11-7 on an off-speed hit by Jefferson junior Rileigh Stockwell (3 kills). A hitting error gave the hosts the serve and six winners of various types later, a hit off the block by Dangler put the hosts up 18-7. A bump winner by sophomore Brooke Culp (14 assists) only stopped the momentum briefly. A serving error by the Wildcats (8 for the match) put the ball in the hands of Smith. Four of the next five points came via winners for the Maroon and White and a kill by Siefker put it at set point. A serving error by the hosts (6 for the match versus 9 aces) prolonged the set by one point; a serving error by the visiting Lady Wildcats but the hosts up 1-0.
The second set was much closer most of the way. Jefferson senior Fallon Van Dyke (6 kills), junior Katelyn Goergens (5 kills) and junior Kamie Pulford (2 aces, 3 digs) helped keep the visitors close as the lead went back and forth. That is, until a Stockwell ace gave the guests their final lead at 15-14. A kill by Dangler got the hosts off on a 5-0 run that set the tone of the rest of the set. The Jeffcats got only two more points: kills by Goergens and junior Lindsay Deuel; as Kalida had too much firepower. A hit off the defense by junior Elizabeth Turnwald gave Kalida a 2-0 set edge.
The third set followed a similar pattern as the second: both teams battling for supremacy. However, once a hitting error on Delphos gave Kalida a 10-9 edge, the hosts never trailed again. A key span that saw Kalida up its lead from 16-14 to 23-14 — with freshman Kylie Osterhage (8 kills) leading that effort — sealed the deal. A well-placed push off the defense by Smith ended the sweep.
Junior Alexis Decker also added 15 assists for Kalida.
“What I am seeing is our defense really playing well, especially the back row. I don’t think I have seen them move their feet as quickly as I’m seeing now,” Early added. “We have come a long, long way since the start of this season in every way and it goes back even to last year, with most of these same girls. With all this going on and all this improvement, I am hoping we have some good matches yet to go in the tournament.”
Kalida finished its junior varsity season at 12-2 with a 25-9, 25-8 sweep.
“I was very concerned with the scrappiness of Jefferson. They hustle all over the place and you have to make extra hits to put them away,” Luebrecht added. “They hit angles we weren’t prepared for. We never want to take anyone for granted because you never know. We have to have the same attitude for the tournament; you have to be prepared for anything.”
Jefferson (7-15) plays Crestview 7:15 p.m. Tuesday in the Division IV sectionals at Ottoville and will play top-seeded Kalida 6 p.m. Oct. 20.