Norwalk clinches share of ninth league title in 10 years

Mark Hazelwood • Oct 8, 2019 at 10:42 PM

VERMILION — One goal is down.

But several still big ones still await.

That was the mindset of the Norwalk volleyball team following Tuesday’s three-game sweep over host Vermilion in a Sandusky Bay Conference Lake Division match.

With the win — by scores of 25-15, 25-12, 25-15 — Norwalk improved to 13-8 overall and 10-1 in the Lake Division. The victory clinched at least a share of the league title. Norwalk will travel to Bellevue (16-5, 9-2) on Thursday with a chance to win the championship outright.

“Knowing it was Vermilion’s senior night and what was at stake for us, we knew we had to step up and start out ready from the first point,” Norwalk senior defensive specialist Elyse Balduff said. “We really worked well together tonight and were able to accomplish that.

The league championship is the 21st overall in program history. It also marks the ninth league title in a 10-year span between the Northern Ohio League and SBC.

Norwalk saw an eight-year string of league titles snapped last season, which was certainly a talking point in 2019 for the eight seniors.

“It’s definitely been our goal since losing it last year,” said Balduff, who served 14 points with five aces in Tuesday’s win. “We knew getting the league title would be a big step forward going into our tournament play. I think we’re all kind of glad we could wrap it up on our end.”

Vermilion (13-9, 6-6) lost middle hitter Jenna Peters to an injury in Game 1, and never recovered up front against the Norwalk hitters.

Delaney Thomas had nine kills on 20-of-23 hitting, while Olivia Ward had eight (10-of-11), followed by Mya Neuberger and Carly Bilton with six each, and Claire Kelly with five.

“We were able to take care of business,” Norwalk coach Sarah Kipp said. “Overall, we had a really balanced attack across the front row, and we’re pretty sound on defense.

“With them losing Peters, she’s a great player for them and it made a huge difference for their team,” she added.

Kelley also served 11 points for Norwalk, with Thomas adding 10 points. Ward was 68-of-69 setting with 22 assists, while Lindsey Koenig and Kelley each led the defense with 14 digs.

Both Balduff and Kipp talked about Thursday’s regular season finale at Bellevue, which has no shortage of subplots.

Norwalk lost in four last season at Bellevue in the last match, which cost it the league title streak. The Lady Red will this time be looking to force the co-title, having lost at Norwalk in four on Sept. 17.

On Sunday at the Division II district tournament draw, the Lady Red were voted the top seed and Norwalk was second — meaning a third meeting could happen down the road should both teams advance to the district championship at Seneca East.

“We’re going to celebrate it tonight and be back in the gym (Wednesday) and work just as hard like we’re still working for it — because we are,” Kipp said. “I would really like to come out and win the league title outright on Thursday.

“These girls have worked really hard for a long time and they deserve that accolade,” she added. “They want that bad.”

Kipp also noted the significance of being able to play such a high stakes match in the regular season finale as a tuneup for the tournament.

“We’re excited for Thursday,” she said. “I think overall it’s fun and it’s what it’s all about. You don’t ever want to go out and win a championship and not have to work for it.

“These kids have worked long and hard, and we still have one match to go,” Kipp added. “And hopefully we’ll take care of business on Thursday.”

Added Balduff, “We all know the job we have to get done, and we’re ready for it.”

Norwalk Reflector Videos