Quarterfinal knockout by New London
NEW LONDON — The Class 1A No. 3 New London volleyball team claimed a three-set regional win over WACO last night in New London, but the Warriors did not go down easily.
The Tigers won the first set, 25-10, and took the final set by a score of 25-7. In between, WACO battled its host to a 28-26 decision.
It took a couple of key kills by New London junior Emily Parks to hold off the Warriors and secure the sweep.
“We knew they weren’t going to give up or go away quietly,” said New London head coach Maureen Heath.
The Tigers had seen what WACO could do in the New London Tournament — the Warriors won the first game of the match and forced a third set against their ranked opponents on their home court.
The Tigers didn’t want to let that happen again, and they came out ready to play at the start of the match.
“In game one, we knew we had to come out strong,” Parks said. “We focused on serving.”
And their serving kept WACO off-balance throughout the set.
“I think we were really focused,” Heath said. “We were on our home court, and we knew what WACO would do, but we concentrated on what we wanted to do.”
After the big win, however, the Tigers let up a little — and WACO took advantage with some fierce serving of its own.
“We just let down our guard after the first game,” Heath said. “They put some pressure on us. We knew they had some servers, and they started putting the ball in places where we didn’t defend. They had us off-guard all game — we were out of sync.”
WACO never let New London get a big lead in the second set. The Tigers went up by as many as five at 16-11, but WACO caught up on a serving run by junior Leah McElhinney that included two aces. McElhinney led the Warriors with 10-for-10 serving.
“We lost a little bit of confidence when they kept with us,” Parks said.
The teams were tied at 18, 20 and 26 in the game.
WACO was at game point three times — first, on a New London error, then on a tip by junior Kalicia Miller and another tip by junior Aaliyah Brown.
Brown had a team-high six kills on the night and Miller had four. Senior Rosemary Skriver added five. Senior Ashlyn Hammen had 14 assists.
The first time WACO went up, a kill by New London junior Jorgi Krieger saved the game for the Tigers, and then Parks stepped up twice to tie the score.
New London took a lead at 27-26 on an ace by sophomore Morgan Christner, and another kill by Parks ended the set.
As the Tigers fought to stay alive, Parks didn’t let the risk of a costly error slow her down at the net.
“(Emily Parks) got a couple (kills) to fall inside the blocks,” Heath said. “She just kept swinging — she’s a gutsy player. (Senior) Sarah (Holtkamp), our setter, she knows that Emily (Parks) has more experience than the middles, and she goes to her in pressure situations.”
And that’s where Parks thrives.
“I always want game point,” Parks said. “I’m ready every time.”
She led the team with 10 kills on the night, while Krieger had nine and Christner had seven.
“I do get a little nervous — I knew they were digging me up, and I had a couple errors (earlier in the match),” Parks said.
And that’s where WACO came up short.
“I thought we just got tip-happy at the end,” said WACO head coach Jay Coble. “We were afraid.”
After the loss in the hard-fought second set, WACO didn’t have much left for game three.
“It’s hard mentally to come back, knowing you’ve got to win three in a row,” Coble said. “I think if we won the second game, it would have been a different match. But to go face-to-face in that one was a lot of fun.”
Once again, Tigers used serving to give them a big advantage. Senior Sami Koontz had a big run to start the game as New London went up 5-1 and then 10-2.
“They knew they had to come back,” Heath said. “Our serving, right off the bat, really kept them out of the game.”
Skriver had a team-high 13 digs for WACO and junior Erika Leichty added nine.
The Warriors finished with a record of 18-17 after three wins last year.