By SCOTT COTTOS
Hannah Warrington’s jumping ability helps her cash in for kills on a regular basis despite her height of 5-foot-6.
On Wednesday night, the Liberty-Benton junior not only used her talent to unload for a match-high 27 kills, but also to make the clinching defensive play for the Eagles in their 22-25, 25-19, 25-18, 26-28, 15-13 victory over Leipsic in a key early-season Blanchard Valley Conference volleyball match.
Six-foot freshman Izzy Granger added 26 kills and Alissa Rhodes dished out 68 assists as Liberty-Benton moved its record to 6-0 overall and 2-0 in the BVC.
Hayley Heitmeyer, a 6-3 senior middle hitter, led the Vikings with 24 kills as they slipped to 5-1 overall and 1-1 in conference play.
“The last three years, it had been the away team winning in five (sets),” Eagles coach Julie Todd said. “So, when (Wednesday night’s match) went to five, I was thinking, ‘Oh, no, we’ve got to break this trend.’ Fortunately, we came out on top.”
Leipsic coach Brent Newell was left lamenting one that got away.
“It’s a tough loss,” he said. “We had a three-point lead late in set 5 and couldn’t finish the deal.”
An L-B hitting error put the Vikings up 12-9 in the final set. Back-to-back kills by 6-3 Caitlin Elseser and Warrington trimmed the count to 12-11, before Granger’s spike was ruled narrowly out of bounds, giving Leipsic a 13-11 edge.
That’s when the Eagles went on the match-winning run. A pair of Elseser kills sandwiched a Warrington putaway for a 14-13 L-B advantage. Leipsic then set up Heitmeyer for a swing near the middle of the court. Warrington and Elseser elevated side by side, and the shorter of the pair, got her hands on the ball for the winning stuff.
Warrington played a hunch and came away successful as the ball went to Heitmeyer.
“They were tipping toward the end, and usually I fall off for the tip,” Warrington said. “But I was like, ‘OK, at this point in the game they’re going to try to be as aggressive as they can and really try to hit the ball.’ So I said, ‘I’m just going to go up and block,’ … and it worked out.”
Warrington said she knew her team was in for a battle with the Vikings.
“It was really intense,” she said. “We knew it was going to be a tough match from the beginning. We played them in the summer and they were good, so we knew we were going to have to come out fighting.
“At the end, either team could have got the win. It was just who was more aggressive.”
Liberty-Benton had a chance to win earlier by taking a 24-22 lead in the fourth set. A Heitmeyer stuff block and a Carlee Siefker kill followed, though, to tie the set. Ties at 24, 25 and 26 ensued before Warrington served out of bounds and Liz Scheckelhoff notched a kill to force a fifth set.
The decisive set saw L-B ramp up its defense.
“I told everyone to go for everything,” Warrington said. “I said, ‘Come on, guys, we got this. We’re going to go for this. Just go for everything.’ It was intense.
Warrington added 27 digs to her night’s work, while Granger made 11 digs and Rhodes was 148 for 150 setting. Chloe Miller came up with 33 digs and Elseser made four blocks.
Siefker recorded 17 kills and 17 digs for Leipsic, while Lyndie Hazelton and Selena Loredo handed out 29 and 24 assists, respectively. Kacey Dulle made 25 digs and Heitmeyer had four blocks.
Leipsic (5-1, 1-1 Blanchard valley conference)
SERVING: Hayley Heitmeyer 17-17, Lyndie Hazelton 16-16, Kacey Dulle 21-22, Selena Loredo 19-20. ACES: Heitmeyer 3, Loredo 2. KILLS: Heitmeyer 24, Carlee Siefker 17, Liz Scheckelhoff 10. SPIKING: Siefker 37-41, Heitmeyer 52-60. ASSISTS: Hazelton 29, Loredo 24. SETTING: Hazelton 72-72, Loredo 66-70. DIGS: Dulle 25, Siefker 17, Brooke Brown 13. BLOCKS: Heitmeyer 4.
Liberty-benton (6-0, 2-0 BVC)
SERVING: Chloe Miller 18-18. KILLS: Hannah Warrington 27, Izzy Granger 26, Schy Shepherd 13. ASSISTS: Alissa Rhodes 68. SETTING: Rhodes 148-150. DIGS: Miller 33, Warrington 27, Granger 11. BLOCKS: Caitlin Elseser 4, Shepherd 3.
JUNIOR VARSITY: Leipsic, 25-21, 12-25, 25-18.