By Ryan Hines
Celina's strong start to the season continued on Thursday night when the Bulldogs hosted Shawnee for a three-game beating in Western Buckeye League action.
The Bulldogs (6-2) are still unbeaten in the WBL at 3-0 after a 25-5, 25-20 and 25-12 win over Shawnee (2-4). Celina, Bath, Defiance and Ottawa-Glandorf are the lone teams unbeaten in league play.
"I was so proud to see the girls play with the focus that they did in the first game, it slipped a little in the second game, but then they came back and played well again in the third game," said Celina head coach Nikki Etzler. "I think that we were able to set the tone of the game in game one and that's something that we talked about prior to the game."
Celina's perfect start in the WBL has come against St. Marys, Van Wert and Shawnee which leaves a difficult road ahead, but Etzler thinks her Bulldogs are up for the challenge. Part of Etzler's optimism comes from the fact that both of Celina's losses this year came against state-ranked teams in St. Henry (second in Division IV) and Marion Local (fifth in Division IV).
"I think that we can be in the top three in the league and we're shooting for the number-one spot," admitted Etzler. "Ottawa-Glandorf is undefeated (9-0) and Defiance is doing a great job against good competition and we still have to play those two teams yet. You can't overlook any of the other teams that we still have to play either, but I think that with the schedule that we play, we should be ready. "We're capable of making a run for the league title if we continue to work hard and limit our errors in matches," added Etzler.
Shawnee was no match for Celina and it was evident from the start of game one.
With the score tied at 1-1, Celina's Allison Knapke stepped behind the service line and led the Bulldogs to a five-point spurt, for a 6-1 Bulldogs lead.
Dianna Schwegman then took over serving with a 7-2 lead and helped push the advantage to 14-2.
Shawnee never made for much of a challenge in the first game, losing by 20 points. Of the Indians' five points in game one, four came on Celina errors.
Game two was much more competitive as Shawnee only lost by five points, but Celina dominated again in game three.
Kelly Adams and Knapke provided Celina with some strong serving on the way to a 9-1 lead early on.
Betsy Hone, who was also the big hitter again for Celina, served up five service points, three of which came on aces from a lethal jump serve. Celina never let up the rest of the way in the lopsided win.
Shawnee was never able to solve the Celina service game as the Indians struggled with serve reception all night long.
Celina had nine aces in the match and Hone led the way with six.
Knapke and Schwegman also did a solid job behind the service line collecting a combined 19 points off of their serve.
"We've been working on our serve a lot in practice and we've been telling the girls to serve more aggressively out there and they did that tonight," said Etzler. "We have a tough schedule up ahead and if we want to win those games, we're going to have to serve more aggressive."
Hone also led all players with 15 kills while Knapke and Liz Homan added five apiece, respectively.
Celina is back in action again on Saturday hosting Eastwood for an 11 a.m. start.