Grace Brandt, right, of North Union leaps to block a hit by a Graham attacker on Tuesday. Brandt tallied six blocks during NU’s 3-0 sweep over the Falcons. (Journal-Tribune photo by Sam Dillon)
The North Union volleyball squad had a mission to start the year.
The goal, set back in August, was to capture a Central Buckeye Conference Mad River Division title.
Tuesday evening’s home match against Graham was the deciding factor for the Lady Cats (18-1 overall and 9-0 in the CBC).
They made quick work of the Falcons during a 3-0 sweep to win the outright championship.
Graham, which trailed NU by only a match in the circuit leading up to Tuesday’s contest, was one of the few teams that has taken the Cats to five sets (earlier this season).
Lady Cat head coach Alexis Maenz wanted her team to be mentally prepared for the battle that would crown the Lady Cats as champions with a win.
“We just took a look at the first match against Graham and expanded on what we did well,” she said. “We worked on the things we needed to improve on.
“We tried to anticipate what they were going to do against us, based off that and used that to have a mental day (Monday),” said the coach. “We worked out the game plan and how we needed to execute it.”
The Lady Cats came out strong in the first set, but Graham met the Cats’ strength point-for-point through 13-13.
Kaitlyn DeLauter hit the ball down the line to turn the tide.
NU stretched its lead to 20-16 when Grace Brandt stuffed Graham hitters twice to pick up the point.
The Lady Cats clinched the first set, 25-16, with Cambria Skaggs’ block.
Maenz said the tone of the opening set was exactly what she was looking for out of her team.
“Through the year, the energy level has been up and down,” she said. “We have been trying to get consistent energy levels and I think we have gotten the right energy at the right time.”
Set two was a back-and-forth battle that saw Graham take a marginal lead.
NU’s Journey Blevins, however, was determined to keep her team in the hunt.
She slammed a kill shot to the floor, knotting the contest at 10-all.
Blevins followed with a block for an 11-10 NU lead.
She later provided a little breathing room with another kill, extending the lead to 12-10.
Graham answered by pulling the game back even at 12-12.
Blevins then picked up points on the front line to help NU take a 17-13 lead.
The Lady Cats held to their second set lead, thanks to several tips over the net by Jordyn Hoffman.
Brandt’s blocked also helped NU take a 2-0 advantage with a 25-21 triumph.
The Falcons took the lead to open set three until the score was later tied at 13-13.
Graham made some hitting errors to help the Lady Cats.
Brandt’s blocks helped NU grab a 19-14 lead.
DeLauter continued to pick points for the Lady Cats as the outside hitter.
The final nail in Graham’s coffin, however, came when Blevins blasted a kill to complete the sweep with a 25-17 win.
Maenz said she couldn’t be happier with the results.
“I’m so proud of the seniors,” she said. “I know how much they wanted it.
“It almost makes me emotional for them, because I know how much it means to them and the program from where it started to where it is now.”
The Lady Cats have one more regular-season contest remaining before opening tournament play as the No. 1 seeded team in Division III, Central District on Oct. 24.
NU will host Indian Lake on Thursday.
Maenz doesn’t want her girls thinking it is a throw-away contest.
“I told the girls we are not done,” she said. “We have a game Thursday and we’ve got to come in and use it to jump start our tournament run.”