By Gary R. Rasberry
VAN WERT -- It will be a Midwest Athletic Conference matchup at the Division III District Semifinal at Van Wert on Thursday.
Only not the matchup many expected.
Delphos St. John's, winless in conference play this season, pulled the upset and defeated second-seeded Parkway in four games in the opening match of Tuesday night sectional action at the Cougar Den.
That places the Blue Jays (10-10) in a matchup with top-seeded Coldwater, which held off a feisty group from Paulding in three games in Tuesday's other sectional final.
The teams will play Thursday at 7 p.m. for a berth in the district finals on Saturday at 4 p.m. at The Grand Canyon in Napoleon. In their regular season meeting, Coldwater (15-8) defeated St. John's in three straight games -- 25-12, 25-21 and 25-11.
The match started with Parkway in control of a 25-15 win as the Blue Jays, with just two seniors on their roster, had some trouble with Parkway's hitting line of Marian Bevington, Karrison Clifton and Jan Boroff.
In game two, Parkway led 12-8 before St. John's began to catch some fire. Finally, the Blue Jays got even with Parkway, sharing ties nine different times the remainder of the match.
St. John's got the lead at 20-19 on a Parkway hitting error and made it 21-19 on an ace by Samantha Laudick. Parkway recovered and tied the game at 21-all on a netserve and an ace by Megan Smith. The Blue Jays got two quick points, only to have Parkway come back and tie. Four times St. John's managed to get a game-point situation, only to have the Panthers tie it up. Finally at 27-26, freshman Lindsay Reindel dropped an ace on the Parkway side for the 28-26 win to even the match at 1-1.
"I told them we had nothing to lose, to lay it all on the line on the floor," said St. John's coach Kalia Cook. "Wow! Did they leave it all on the court. I told them we needed to keep going and doing good things."
"The second game just went back and forth. It was point for point. We just couldn't get a run," said Parkway coach Jeff Marbaugh. "We came out like we wanted to. We handled the ball and did all the things we needed to. Second game we were just out there."
The marathon win sparked the Blue Jays, pulling away in game three for a 25-15 win, thanks in large part to a six-point run by Laudick that pushed St. John's lead from 17-14 to 23-14. Parkway got a point to break the streak, but could not get the momentum back as Nicole Wallenhorst spiked the ball on the ensuing serve. A Panther hitting error gave St. John's game three.
In game four, Parkway and St. John's were tied at 4-all when Reindel came up with a solid serving run of five points, four of the points coming on hitting errors by Parkway. The Blue Jay lead went up as much as 21-9 before the Panthers tried to get a rally going with Elaine Crowell serving. Crowell served up two aces in a six-point run that cut the Blue Jay lead to 21-15 before a long hit by Parkway gave the Blue Jays the ball at 22-15. Two more hitting errors made it match point before Reindel spiked down a kill to end the match.
"Very very excited," said Cook. "We have a young team (four sophomore regulars and a freshman). I tell everybody we have talent, we just struggle to put it together. I knew we were going to come away with an upset eventually. Tonight it was and we'll take it."
"We just lost focus and never got it back," said Marbaugh. "Delphos picked up momentum and kept playing harder and harder."
The Cavaliers moved on with scores of 25-15, 25-20 and 25-14, but the Panthers made the Cavaliers work for it. After seeing the end of the Parkway-St. John's match, Coldwater coach Mandy Diller had to remind her charges that anything could happen.
"That's what I told the girls on the bench during a timeout," said Diller. "It was 'You know, guys, this is it. You have to play like it's the last chance you're going to be on the court. You've got to play with desire and give everything you got. It (the St. John's win) was definitely an eye opener."
The Cavaliers broke away in game one with Emily Severt serving. Severt served up two aces in a run that raised the Coldwater lead from 13-12 to 16-12. From there, Paulding managed just three more points. Lindsey Bruns added an ace and Kelley Lefeld added two kills in the run to a big win in game one.
In game two, the Cavaliers were up 16-6 early, only to have the Panthers come back and cut it to 21-17 thanks to a great service run by Kelsey Carnahan, who served up two aces to start her run, then got kills from Megan Simpson and Ashley Clark to close the gap. However, Bruns, Karla Niekamp and Tiffany Uhlenhake used kills to close things out for the Cavs.
"We needed to execute a little better," said Diller. "We just didn't seem to have that intensity. We just needed to loosen up and enjoy ourselves a little more. We were able to do that a little more in the third game."
The final game saw Coldwater and Paulding tied at 4-all before several small scoring runs helped the Cavaliers put their lead back up to a solid cushion. Bruns, Uhlenhake, Niekamp and Lefeld led the charge with hitting at the net.