BY J. PATRICK EAKEN | MIRROR SPORTS — Anthony Wayne volleyball defeated host Southview 25-14, 19-25, 25-20, 30-28 on Tuesday to win an outright Northern Lakes League championship.
“I mean, it just feels great. We work so hard in the gym and have just become sisters playing as a team. So, it feels really good to come out on top this year,” said AW senior Lauren Curry.
No one was prouder than AW senior Taylor Russell, who registered her 1,000th career kill early in the second set.
Her Generals were finally champions, and AW had to clinch it without coach Norm McGhee present. McGhee was not feeling well and during a pandemic, he stayed home on the side of caution.
“Our seventh- and eighth-grade years, we were runners-up, and even in junior high, there was always something that happened, and we ended up losing in three sets,” Russell said.
“To finally be able to come out on top, it is so fun. Even with us having to deal with Norm not being here and then we just had an injury, so it is amazing to come out on top and win this one.”
AW closed the regular season 20-2 and 13-1 in the NLL, two games ahead of the second-place teams. How-ever, that lone league loss was to Southview, which defeated AW by winning three of four sets in Sylvania.
This time at the Dick Albaugh Physical Education and Athletic Center, the Generals were prepared. They even made a few adjustments.
“Lauren Curry was hitting outside the last time we played them, and we turned her more into the middle this time, and she’s a big blocker for us,” said assistant coach Jillian Stawicki, filling in for McGhee.
“So, that is a huge adjustment that we made. (Junior) Ali Denman did great on the outside as well, and those are the two switches that we made,” Stawicki continued.
“So, we’re pretty proud of all of them and then (senior) Eva (McClure) went to the right side and she puts up a pretty good block there, too.”
The first set, the Generals registered five aces and Russell had 10 kills as they routed the Cougars by 11 points.
“Our serve receiving and our defense kicked up and so did our energy and our talking. We were missing that the first game,” Russell said. “Doing that, and then in practice we really improved, and that showed tonight.”
Stawicki added, “In our serve receiving, we came out really strong and we passed really well this game. That is something we struggled with a little bit the last time.
“Also, defensively, we knew their outsides really came up big for them last game, so we made sure we were prepared for them this time. Again, our defense was pretty disciplined on the pass and cross-court shot.”
Stawicki said the Generals went into the match with the right mental attitude, too.
“I think a lot of it is our mentality and we want to finish this season hard because we were fighting for the NLL,” Stawicki said.
“So, the girls were motivated, and we talked all week on how to control what we can control, and we pushed for that.”
Russell’s 1,000th kill came with the Generals losing 11-6 in the second set, the only set they lost. She had 34 kills in the four sets and leads the team with 395 kills in 78 sets played.
Russell played junior varsity her freshman season, so reaching that milestone in three years of varsity play was “awesome,” said Stawicki.
Russell added, “It’s exciting. It is actually doing it in three years and not many people do that. It is a good accomplishment and I’m glad I got it doing it with this team.”
Curry is second on the team in kills with 193, McClure has 165 and Denman has 156. In serving, Denman leads the team with 61 aces, McClure has 48 and Curry has 44.
McClure’s 60 blocks lead the team, sophomore Ava Horn has 50, Russell has 39, and Curry and senior Morgan Lee have 20 each.
Denman leads the team on defense with 235 digs, Russell has 204, McClure has 145, Lee has 134 and sophomore Lauren Sugg has 117.
AW is the No. 1 seed in the district and was set to open the Division I tournament by hosting the winner of Bowling Green and Mansfield Madison at 5:00 p.m. on Wednesday, October 21.
A win would mean AW would keep hosting in the district semifinal at 5:00 p.m. on Monday, October 26 against the winner of Sandusky and sixth-seeded Perrysburg.
A win there will keep AW at home in the district final, scheduled for 6:00 p.m. on Wednesday, October 28. Ashland, seeded fourth, is the top seed on the other side of the district bracket, Northview is fifth and St. Ursula seventh.