By Ryan Hines
ST. HENRY -- In a nonconference matchup between two of the most respected volleyball programs in northwest Ohio, St. Henry and Celina battled through four rigorous games to decide a winner.
St. Henry slipped past Celina in four tight games winning the first two games 28-26 and 25-22 before dropping the third, 27-29, and winning the fourth, 25-20.
Both coaches were more than complimentary of their opponents after the season opener between the Mercer County powers.
"I thought that it was great volleyball out there between two very good volleyball programs," said St. Henry head coach Lori Schwieterman, who helped guide the Redskins to the Division IV state volleyball title a year ago. "The girls played hard on both sides and I was happy that we could come away with a win against Celina. Even when we got behind, we were able to come back and that was big to see in the first game of the year.
"We're playing nine girls right now and out of those nine, six are seeing their first varsity action, so I was pleased with how they played," added Schwieterman. "Playing against teams like Celina can only make you better and we hope that happened to us tonight." "To start the season with a matchup like this is exciting for the girls on both teams I think," said Celina head coach Nikki Etzler. "It's a good test for us to play a team like St. Henry to see where we are right now. We saw some good things out there and we competed hard with them, but we made some mistakes and there's certainly a lot of room for improvement."
The difference between the two teams came down to making plays late in the games, something that St. Henry did a little better than Celina.
Celina held a 9-1 advantage to start game one, but the Bulldogs slowly watched the Redskins creep back into the game before tying the game at 23-23.
The Bulldogs then made three crucial errors down the stretch while the Redskins got plenty of offense along the way to pick up the two-point win, 28-26.
Celina once again led for most of game two until St. Henry battled back and was able to tie the score at 16-16. The serving of Kendra Rutschilling and the offense from Kayla Lefeld pushed the Redskins to the 25-22 win in the second game. Rutschilling won four points off her serve late in the second contest and Lefeld pounded home three kills to pave the way to the win for the Red and White.
It was a reversal of fortunes in game three as St. Henry got out to an early lead before Celina slowly crept back to tie the score at 13-13. Celina held the lead the rest of the way and was aided by 10 Redskin errors on the way to the 29-27 third set win.
Game four went back and forth in the early going before St. Henry finally began to take charge midway through the match.
With St. Henry nursing a 16-14 lead, Kenzie Westgerdes stepped behind the service line and won four straight points to give the Redskins a commanding 20-14 advantage. Celina never got closer than four the rest of the way as St. Henry sealed the win, 25-20.
"I think that the difference was that we made a few mistakes at the end of some of the games with serves and other errors and those are things that we have to correct to compete against teams of this stature," stated Etzler.
Despite the loss, Celina's Betsy Hone provided the Bulldogs with a strong offensive game leading all players with a game-high 25 kills.
"Betsy is a great player, you just never know where the ball is going to go when it comes to her," said Schwieterman. "She uses so many shots and I told the girls that they all have to be ready when the ball is going to her."
"Betsy played outstanding tonight and did a lot of things well for us," pointed out Etzler. "She's our go-to player right now and she sure played like it."
Lefeld, an all-Ohio selection a year ago, and Betsy Hoying led the Redskins offense with 14 kills apiece, while Lefeld added six aces off her powerful jump serve. Puthoff added 12 kills for the Redskins.