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Norwalk scores huge five-game road win at Perkins

By JOSH MORGRET • Sep 4, 2018 at 11:17 PM

PERKINS TWP. — Nearly a year after playing a five-game classic match at Perkins High School, Norwalk and the host Pirates met again on Tuesday at Perkins.

They again played five sensational games, because why not?

This time, it was Norwalk that came out on top, 20-25, 25-16, 25-15, 23-25, 15-11, in a key Sandusky Bay Conference Lake division contest.

"We just never quit," Norwalk coach Sarah Kipp said. "We came out and was steady the whole match, which is something we have been focusing on. We want to focus on not getting frustrated when we make a mistake. These girls did that tonight."

Norwalk improved to 4-3 overall and 2-1 in SBC Lake play while the Pirates fell to 4-2, 1-2.

"It was an up and down match," Perkins coach Heath Hamilton said. "I thought there were big swings both ways. Norwalk played hard and they are a scrappy team. They are definitely sound and I think that bothered us a little bit. We have to get better moving forward."

It was Perkins that snapped Norwalk's 76-match conference winning streak on Sept. 28 last year with a 26-24, 20-25, 25-16, 16-25, 15-6 win at home.

"There is fight," Hamilton said. "There has been fight all year. That is one thing about our team — there are obvious things we need to work on and improve — but, I like the motor of our kids. You can not ask for much more as a coach than that."

Norwalk led from start to finish in the final game. Two kills from Mya Neuberger, and single kills from Carly Bilton and Olivia Ward gave Norwalk a quick 4-0 lead, forcing Hamilton into a timeout. Perkins slowly chipped away and drew within 9-8 after Mollie McVeigh smashed one of her 10 kills, but that was the closest the Pirates would get.

Claire Kelley put down a kill from the back row and Neuberger added another one of her team-high 11 kills for a 11-8 lead and another Perkins timeout. Marie Clouse's kill put Norwalk up 13-10 and after an error by Perkins, Bilton registered her ninth and final kill for the win.

The Pirates jumped on Norwalk in Game 1. Perkins never trailed and opened a 9-5 lead with four straight points. The Truckers hung around, but could only close the gap to three points one time while Perkins pushed the lead to as much as 21-13. The teams exchanged runs, but a kill from Rachael Wenzinger put the Pirates ahead.

"In the first game, we did a nice job keeping a quick pace," Hamilton said. "After that, our pace was not as fast the rest of the match. We kept trying to get back there, but we had ball control issues."

Norwalk responded in the second and third games. The Truckers turned the tide in Game 2 and led from start to finish. Norwalk jumped out to a 9-2 lead after continued balanced hitting and the margin ballooned to 13-3 by the time Hamilton used his second timeout in the game.

The lead was 17-5 when Perkins showed a bit of life with four straight points, but the Pirates only got within seven points and kills from Kelley and Neuberger evened the match.

"We told them it was time to play," said Kipp of her message to her team after Game 1. "It was time to play."

The teams played evenly in Game 3, as the game was 9-9 before Norwalk put some distance between the two. Norwalk won eight of the next nine points - finishing off a 10-1 run - before Hamilton called timeout. That run was more than enough of a cushion to push Norwalk to a two games to one lead.

Norwalk looked to put the final nailed in the coffin in an extremely tight Game 4. Neither team had more than a two-point lead for most of the game. With the game tied at 17, Norwalk surged ahead with kills from Neuberger, Clouse, and Ward, as well as an ace from Kelley for a 21-17 lead.

But Perkins did not go away. A net violation, as well as a block and two kills from Ryleigh Knupke again tied the game. The teams were also tied at 22- and 23-all before Madi Lawson registered a block and Madison Booth's kill tied the match again.

"We played really well in Game 3 and 4," Kipp said. "Our defense stepped it up a notch and we picked up balls tonight that I have not seen them pick up since the summer."

Knupke, one of the top hitters in the area, registered her 1,000th kill early in Game 5, finishing with 16 kills.

"Our block up front did a nice job of getting out and closing the block and keeping (Knupke) to (16) kills," Kipp said. "To do that over five games is an amazing feat. (Knupke) is a fantastic player all around. We have been working on our block. It allows the defense to get set and play the ball."

Olivia Ward had 45 assists and 18 digs for Norwalk, which finished with 84 digs as a team. Marie Clouse had eight kills and Claire Kelley added seven.

Kaylee Hiser topped Perkins with 45 digs and two aces while Knupke added 26 digs and two aces. McVeigh registered 25 assists while Olivia Weatherly added 22 assists. Lawson, Wenzinger, and Booth each contributed six kills.

"For some reason, we could not get back to the pace we played with early," Hamilton said. "That is going to be our push moving forward."

While just three games into the league schedule, a second league loss could prove critical to Perkins' title hopes. Hamilton said there was no need to put any more pressure on his team.

"They knew how big and important of a match it was," Hamilton said. "I did not want to put extra pressure by re-emphasizing it. They knew."

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