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Norwalk league streak ends at Perkins

By JOSH MORGRET • Updated Sep 28, 2017 at 10:44 PM

PERKINS TWP. — Riley Knupke smashed 19 kills to lead Perkins to a 26-24, 20-25, 25-16, 16-25, 15-6 Sandusky Bay Conference Lake division win over visiting Norwalk on Thursday.

The league loss for Norwalk (10-4, 8-1) is the first since a road loss at Shelby on Oct. 12, 2010, while a member of the Northern Ohio League. Norwalk had won 76 straight league matches.

"It is a huge win for us," Perkins coach Heath Hamilton said. "Hopefully it becomes a new rivalry for us."

The Pirates (12-5, 7-2) took a quick 5-0 lead in Game 5 — thanks in part to four Norwalk errors. Aimee Smith had a kill to halt the Perkins momentum, but a kill by Knupke and another Norwalk error made it 7-1. Knupke and Klarissa Popke each hit a kill, and an ace by Kaylee Hiser extended the lead to 9-2.

Knupke's third kill of the game, coupled with a kill by Rachael Wenzinger and two service aces from Popke put the Pirates ahead, 13-4. Madi Lawson smacked one of her 11 kills, and an error by Norwalk ended the match.

"The quick start was big. In each game we lost, we got down early," Hamilton said. "We had a lot of energy going into the final game and a couple plays went our way."

The Pirates took a wild opening game. A kill by Smith gave the Truckers a 22-18 lead, but Perkins stormed back. Lawson and Knupke each had a kill, Hiser served an ace, and an error by the Truckers prompted a timeout from Norwalk coach Angie Kalizewski.

Norwalk won the next two points on kills from Olivia Ward and Carly Bilton, but the final four points — including the last two on aces from Knupke gave Perkins the early lead.

"We did not play, plain and simple," Kalizewski said. "We looked scared and Perkins played well."

Norwalk bounced back, but not without a scare in the second game. The Truckers' lead was 8-7 when they kicked it up a notch. They ran off 11 of the next 12 points to take a commanding 19-8 lead. The edge was 23-12 for the Truckers, but in an instant, the Pirates could do no wrong.

Perkins won the next seven points, including two blocks from Lawson to cut the lead to four points and force Kalizewski to call timeout. The Pirates committed an error out of the timeout, but Knupke smacked a kill to keep the Pirates alive. However, a block by Claire Kelley knotted the match at a game apiece.

"The first time we played Norwalk, we lost in four games and the first two games were back-and-forth, just like tonight was," Hamilton said. "The first time, we ran out of gas in the third game. That was the big difference tonight. Through conditioning and as much as we have played, we got our legs under us, and we are in much better shape."

Perkins controlled and dominated Game 3. The Pirates jumped out with the first three points and never trailed in the game. Their lead was 14-11 when six straight points extended the lead to 20-11. A kill by Olivia Weatherly ended the game and gave Perkins the lead back.

"There is no one to blame but ourselves tonight, period," Kalizewski said. "We did not bounce back. Somehow, we have to learn from this. We have to fix ourselves before we can worry about anyone else."

The script was flipped in Game 4, as Norwalk controlled most of the game. Two errors by the Pirates gave Norwalk a 14-7 lead. The lead extended to as much as 19-11 as Norwalk sent the match to a deciding fifth game.

"Overall, Norwalk is a great, outstanding program," Hamilton said. "This is a big win. Norwalk played a great match, too. It was well played on both sides."

Smith finished with 15 kills on 46-of-55 hitting to pace Norwalk, while Olivia Ward was 40-of-50 with 12 kills, and Bilton and Claire Kelley each added eight kills. Anne Davidson served 14 points and led the defense with 40 digs, and Ward had 20 digs. Alaina Kelley was 135-of-137 setting with 40 assists.

Norwalk is tied with Shelby (11-4, 7-1) for first in the Lake division, with the Pirates one match back. Norwalk is at Shelby next Thursday.

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