By Gary R. Rasberry
VAN WERT -- After hitting a tough stretch of opponents at the end of the regular season, the Parkway volleyball team bounced back at the right time, winning their opening match of the Division III sectional volleyball tournament on Saturday.
Parkway won the first two games with matching 25-16 scores. In the third game, Wayne Trace took advantage of some lineup changes and sluggish Panthers play to win 25-22 to force the final game, which Parkway won again, 25-16.
Parkway (11-12), the top seed of the sectional bracket, now faces Paulding in the second match on Tuesday night at Van Wert High School in a sectional final. The first match will pit second-seeded Coldwater, which received a bye, against MAC rival St. John's. The Blue Jays won the opening match on Saturday over Fairview 25-16, 25-16 and 25-9. The first match on Tuesday will start at 6:15 p.m.
"The draw was two weeks ago and I knew we had a rough schedule coming up towards the end," said Parkway coach Todd Henkle. "It was tough, I think we went 0-5 the last five matches. I thought if that happened, we'd get a little confidence builder."
The Panthers started out fast in all three winning games. In the first, the Panthers were leading 19-9 before the Raiders made a mini-run to get it to 19-15. Parkway recovered to score six of the last seven points to come away with the win. The front line combination of Rebekah Roehm and Laura Art each had five kills and two blocks in the game. In the second game, Wayne Trace hung around, staying tied until the 5-all mark when Erika Snyder and Tiff Steinbrunner put together a string of service points. Steinbrunner had an ace and several Raider misplays pushed the lead to 13-6. Wayne Trace came back with the serving of Teresa Young, who had three aces in a stretch to get her team to within three at 15-12. The hard-hitting Roehm ended the rally with a kill as Parkway began to pull away.
Henkle began to sub in more, allowing reserves to see some tournament time. Leah Unger made good use of her time, getting an ace to put the game away.
The Panthers added more subs in game three, putting several freshman on the floor. The Raiders took control early, getting up 15-9 before Parkway's regulars rotated back in and helped close the game to 17-13.
Parkway got as close as 23-20 when it appeared the Raiders got their 24th point on a kill by Kelly Sinn. Parkway claimed the ball was out and got the replay, but an out hit by Kissy Clifton still made it 24-20. Parkway got the next point to get the ball back at 24-21 with Roehm serving and Art scored a kill to make it 24-22, but Roehm's next jump serve went out giving the Raiders a win.
"That's why we decided to play (rather than take a bye as the first seed)," said Henkle. "We have some younger players coming up and wanted to get them in there. Really, the younger kids didn't hurt us. We just lost our focus with our juniors and seniors in there. We pretty much got everyone in the game."
The win helped give the Raiders confidence as they hung around with the Panthers through 14-all, as Art got a kill to tie the game. Snyder took over the serving and put up five straight points to go up 19-14. The Raiders got two more points, but Parkway ended the match in style as Elaine Crowell knocked down an ace to end things.
"The intensity factor is what we picked up on," said Henkle. "We need to be more intense each match from here on out."
Roehm, the area leader in kills, finished with 24 kills and four blocks while Art added 18 kills. Steinbrunner finished with three aces.