By ANDY WOLF
LEIPSIC — Leipsic’s volleyball program is always looking to reload — not rebuild.
The proof is in the state-ranked Vikings putting another Putnam County League title in the trophy case.
Leipsic notched its eighth PCL championship in the last nine seasons Tuesday night, handling Miller City 25-19, 25-15, 25-11 in a winner-take-all match for the outright title.
“Coming into the match we were excited, we’re ready, we’re pumped,” senior setter Lyndie Hazelton said. “We’re nervous, but we’re ready to go. No need for nerves. We’re just ready to play.”
Leipsic (20-1, 6-0 PCL), ranked No. 10 in the latest Division IV state coaches poll, missed out in 2017 to Ottoville but has rebounded to post back-to-back undefeated marks in league play.
The Vikings also won their fifth PCL title in six seasons under coach Brent Newell.
Last season, Newell guided a loaded Leipsic squad to the regional final before falling one match short of state against eventual champion Tiffin Calvert.
Four players gone from that squad earned all-PCL recognition — including first-team hitters Hayley Heitmeyer and Carlee Siefker, who combined for 811 kills last season. Heitmeyer, last year’s PCL Player of the Year, now plays at Xavier University in Cincinnati.
The Vikings did bring back six returning letterwinners — five with multiple letters.
Leipsic is also senior heavy with eight on its roster.
“It’s a great feeling that it happened on senior night and we got to play in such a big game,” Hazelton said. “We wanted this so bad. We worked hard in practice to get here.
“Our eight seniors have really stepped up and been leaders on and off the court.”
Still, the task at hand Tuesday could not have been more challenging as Miller City (18-3, 5-1) entered on a 16-match winning streak.
The Vikings stayed aggressive yet composed and only picked up more momentum with every set win.
Hazelton orchestrated Leipsic’s offense, racking up 36 assists on 95 of 95 setting. She also served six aces in only 11 attempts at the service line.
“I set who’s hot. If they get a kill, then I’m going to set them again so they can get another one,” she said with a laugh.
Early on, it was 6-foot freshman and middle blocker Kasey Brough who had the hot hand.
Brough registered five of her match-high 13 kills in the first set, all from the middle and off a Hazelton assist.
She tallied two in a 6-0 run to put Leipsic in front at 12-7 and helped close the set with two more — the first to stave off a Miller City 5-0 rally at 22-18 and the last on set point.
“She sure doesn’t play like a ninth-grader,” Newell said of Brough. “She plays like a senior. She’s a very powerful hitter, never gets nervous, never gets scared.
“She gets blocked, she keeps on swinging, she’s very aggressive and definitely a very good player for us.”
Miller City did generate a few blocks early in the second set, two from 6-0 senior Sofie van Wezel, to grab an early 12-10 lead.
Again, Leipsic took control.
Senior Brooke Brown served three aces in a 5-0 Leipsic run.
With momentum building, three hitting errors by the Wildcats sparked a 7-0 Leipsic run that helped the Vikings put away the set — capped by a serve-receive error.
“We spent a lot time passing the ball up in the air and setting it over and tipping,” Miller City coach Kari Wenzinger said. “When you get a tip, they get to set their offense up and pound it at you.”
Leipsic’s offense got in full sync by the third set with five kills, four assisted, to jump out to a 9-1 lead after giving up the first point on a serve in the net.
Hazelton found Liz Scheckelhoff three times in that span. Scheckelhoff, a junior, even got an unassisted tip kill at the middle of the net.
Hazelton then turned to another freshman — Marisa Hermiller — late in the set for three kills in a span of four points to put the Vikings up 22-10.
Hermiller pounded another unassisted kill in the middle for the 23rd point.
In finishing off the match, Hazelton first assisted Jocie Hermiller at point No. 24 and, finally, Scheckelhoff at the middle again.
“(Hazelton’s) a great leader and great captain,” Newell said. “She’s going to crush about three school records this year. Just a super player for us and definitely played like a senior tonight.
“(I’m) very thankful she’s on my team.”
Scheckelhoff added 12 kills on 19 of 21 hitting with two blocks.
Peyton Heitmeyer chipped in seven kills and two aces for the Vikings.
Brown made a team-high 19 digs and also served four aces on 14 of 14 at the line.
Abi Lammers had 15 digs and six kills to lead Miller City. Cayla Troyer had 13 digs, Adrienne Kuhlman added 12 assists and van Wezel stuffed five blocks.
LEIPSIC (20-1, 6-0)
SERVING: Jocie Hermiller 19-20, Brooke Brown 14-14, Lyndie Hazelton 11-11. ACES: Hazelton 6, Brown 4, Hermiller 3. KILLS: Kasey Brough 13, Liz Scheckelhoff 12, Peyton Heitmeyer 7. SPIKING: Heitmeyer 24-28, Brough 21-26, Scheckelhoff 19-21. ASSISTS: Hazelton 36. SETTING: Hazelton 95-95. DIGS: Brown 19. BLOCKS: Scheckelhoff 2.
JUNIOR VARSITY: Miller City, 25-23, 25-17.