After eight match points, a kill by freshman Mya Neuberger was the clincher for the Truckers in a 25-19, 22-25, 25-15, 32-30 Sandusky Bay Conference Lake division triumph.
With the win, Norwalk improved to 12-6 overall and 9-1 in the SBC and in the process, earned a share of its first SBC title, joining the 19 Northern Ohio League titles in program history.
"We have been talking to our kids a lot about playing at our level and controlling the ball," Norwalk coach Angie Kalizewski said. "I thought we did that tonight. Shelby played a great match and you are going to credit the people that do, and Shelby did."
A block by Karley Miller and a Shelby error gave Norwalk a 24-22 lead in Game 4, but the Whippets (12-6, 7-3) didn’t go quietly. A kill by Faith Bailey and a block from Bailey Walter knotted the game up. Shelby committed a net violation, prompting coach Brandie Albert to use her last timeout of the game.
Bailey's kill out of the timeout again tied the game. Shelby actually had a game point of its own when Walter smashed down a kill for a 27-26 lead, but the Truckers tied it after one of Carly Bilton's 12 kills.
Norwalk also held 28-27, 29-28, and 30-29 leads, but could not put the Whippets away. Aimee Smith put down a kill to give the Truckers a 31-30 lead before Neuberger's seventh kill of the match to end the marathon final game.
"The eight match points are not frustrating because I tend to train for the end of the game a lot," Kalizewski said. "I feel like it is important that we keep composure and never think it is over. You can tell we kept playing. Our energy never spiked up or down. We just kept consistent."
Errors did in the Whippets throughout the night. Shelby committed 24 hitting errors and 10 service errors. Norwalk also served eight aces, adding to the Whippets' issues.
"Our serve receive errors and our attacking errors killed us," Albert said. "We had multiple girls with six or seven attacking errors. You can not do that and beat Norwalk. Not at all. Against somebody else? Yes. But against Norwalk? It is not going to happen."
Norwalk methodically took the opening game, extending its lead slowly but sure. A kill by Neuberger finished off a stretch of three straight points and a 20-15 lead for the Truckers. Shelby got with three points once (21-18) on a net violation by Norwalk, but Norwalk responded with a short 4-1 run to take the opening game.
Shelby bounced back strong in the second game. The Whippets won four straight points for a 11-7 lead, and never allowed Norwalk to take a lead or tie the game. The Truckers did slice the lead to one point at 21-20, but a kill by Emma Lybarger and two of Gracie Yates' five aces gave Shelby breathing room. A kill by Lybarger tied the match at a game apiece.
"I feel like in Game 2, the inexperience and change got to us a little more and Shelby played a good game," Kalizewski said. "At the end, we had four times where kids slipped and fell and that is nobody's fault, but it does alter your game a bit. All we talked about was continuing to play our game."
It was almost all Norwalk in the third game. Shelby actually jumped out to a 5-1 lead before the Truckers could seemingly do no wrong. Norwalk led, 10-9, but used a 13-2 lead to distance itself. Two kills from Olivia Ward fueled the run, and a smash from Bilton put the Truckers up, two games to one.
The Whippets also jumped out to a 5-1 lead as well in Game 4 before Norwalk responded. Shelby actually held a 14-13 lead — the Whippets' last before game point up 27-26, but could never get any more distance between themselves and the Truckers. Game 4 featured eight lead changes and 18 ties.
"We played well," Kalizewski said. "I felt like we really kept composure and worked through stuff. That is a bright side going into tournaments."
CC Gurney led Shelby with 15 kills and five blocks, while Megan Crain tallied 13 kills.
Smith topped Norwalk with 18 kills and four aces while Ward finished with 15 digs and 13 kills. Alaina Kelley had 43 assists and nine digs while Anne Davidson registered 21 digs. Haleigh Skinner added eight digs.
Kalizewski was pleased with the play of freshman Marie Clouse, who stepped up from junior varsity because of an injury.
"We have been struggling with injuries and it is hard to throw a freshman into a varsity match," Kalizewski said. "That is a freshman that has never even been on the floor. Marie did a fabulous job stepping in and keeping her nerves. She did what we needed her to do, which was just get the job done. We did not need anything special."