It can be even easier to get tied up in the daily pressure of playing in one of the all-time winningest programs in Ohio history.
But when it came to Tuesday’s Sandusky Bay Conference Lake division match against visiting Sandusky — it was a stress free night. All that despite host Norwalk clinching the conference title outright — the eighth straight league title and 20th in program history.
The Ladies in Blue (14-6, 10-1) won the match in a sweep, 25-12, 25-14, 25-9.
“Tonight was a lot of fun,” Norwalk senior setter Alaina Kelley said. “We were able to play with no pressure and weren’t really thinking about the conference title. Overall, we worked really well and just had fun with it.”
On top of the SBC Lake title, it was also the annual Volley for the Cure night. The event raised $2,250 for breast cancer awareness and charities. Much of the efforts was spearheaded by Miranda Zurcher, the mother of senior volleyball player Alexis Santiago.
“She’s a survivor herself and really wanted to do it,” Norwalk coach Angie Kalizewski said. “She just ran with it, her and Alexis both put a lot into it and they got a lot of help. We do this night because it’s important. Everybody anywhere right now knows someone or is affected by someone who has to go through this awful thing.
“And if we can bring light to it one night of the year through this sport and what we do and having them here and honoring them, I’ll do it as many times as we need to,” she added. “To me, this is the most important night of any win or loss. Anything you can do to let them know it’s not just family and friends behind them, it’s everyone who supports them.”
Norwalk was never threatened in Tuesday’s match.
It was a 14-10 lead in Game 1, but a pair of kills by Aimee Smith and an ace by Anne Davidson opened the door for 10 straight points.
In Game 2, it was all Norwalk from the start in jumping out to a 21-7 lead. It was a similar result in Game 3, as it was a 14-7 advantage before Norwalk scored nine straight points to turn it into a rout.
“We’ve had an up and down season with some injuries, but we pushed through and worked through them,” Kelley said. “Mentally and physically, we’ve worked on some things to make our game better, and tonight was a good match to work on that type of stuff before the tournament. Hopefully it sets up for a good run.”
Smith finished with nine kills for Norwalk, with both Olivia Ward and Mya Neuberger each adding six kills, and Carly Bilton had five. Davidson was 21 for 22 serving with five aces and had 21 digs.
Ward added 12 digs, while in setting, Kelley was 80-of-80 with 25 assists.
Norwalk still has one more SBC match on Thursday at home against Bellevue — then visits Division I powerhouse Toledo St. Ursula to close out the regular season on Saturday.
Kalizewski talked about winning another league title with a fairly young roster.
“I make it about the girls. Yes, it is eight straight years and that builds tradition,” she said. “And that’s what I try to get them to understand and have the heart for. It’s not just about your season, it’s about continuing tradition and the legacy of the program. That was passed on to me through Grace (Hutchinson), and I really love and embrace being able to uphold that tradition and be able to say we are moving forward.
“We are going through a new conference and change, but we’re still doing what we need to do to be on top,” she added. “The kids work so hard, so to have that secured is great for them. Every year you have new kids, every year you have new challenges and these kids are very young. Sometimes I don’t think people realize how young they are, and for them, that is a confidence booster they need.”