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Knights, Norse, Squires kick off volleyball sectional play

SET: Manchester’s Kendra Kline (9) sets the ball to Anna Osborne (13) during a matcher earlier this season for the Squires.

BY JACOB RUDE - sports@wabashplaindealer.com

Volleyball sectionals at Lafayette Central Catholic and North Miami will play hosts to Wabash County programs beginning tonight and lasting through the weekend, highlighted by a showdown between Northfield and Southwood.

The Norse and Knights will be the first match of Sectional 54 in Lafayette in a rematch of a contest from earlier in the season in which the Norse won in four sets on the road, 20-25, 25-15, 25-17, 25-17.

Northfield, who enter with a 20-7 record, are the best attacking team in the Three Rivers Conference (TRC) with a .246 hitting percentage this season. Addi Baker leads the conference in hitting percentage at .296, nearly five percent higher than the next-highest outside hitter in the TRC.

Bakers’ 258 kills lead the Norse with Kyra Kennedy second with 223 kills. Haylie Faust is third in kills with 176 this season. Abby Hunter, the catalyst of the attacks for Northfield, is third in the conference in assists with 691 while averaging a league-best 8.7 assists per set.

Kelcie Thomson anchors the backline with 550 digs this season, first in the TRC, while Kennedy’s and Hunter’s 242 digs apiece tie for 12th in the TRC.

Southwood’s offense has been far more muted in comparison to the Norse’s with Alissa Pershing and Kayla Mays being the only two Knights with over 100 kills. Pershing has 171 kills on the year, Mays has 118 and the duo of Marissa Metzger and Erin McGouldrick have 99 and 98 kills, respectively.

Defensively, MaKenna Pace leads the team with 267 digs while Erin Lehner has 237 on the year. At the net, Pershing 41 blocks lead the team.

The winner of the Northfield-Southwood match-up will meet Frontier in Saturday morning’s semi-final match-up. The Falcons finished the regular season with a 17-8 record.

In the bottom-half of the bracket, Lafayette Central Catholic will meet Clinton Central in the second match-up on Thursday. The Knights are 28-0 on the year and have dropped just five sets all season. The winner of the contest will meet Tri-Central in the second semi-final game on Saturday.

At North Miami, the Squires will meet Lewis Cass in the opening match of the sectional at 6 p.m. on Thursday. The two sides met at the Elwood Invitational in the opening weekend of the season with Manchester winning 25-14, 25-23.

The Squires are 12-16 on the year but have dropped seven of the final eight contests heading into the regular season. Eva Bazzoni and Anna Osborne lead the attack with 178 and 141 kills, respectively. Kendra Kline’s 442 assists, ranking her fifth in the conference. Emma West’s 346 digs also ranks fifth in the TRC as well.

The Kings, meanwhile, are 8-19 on the season and are also on a downward trend heading into the postseason. Cass has lost six-straight games and eight of their last nine with the lone victory coming against North Miami.

Awaiting the winner of the contest will be a Wabash side that is on pace for a historical season. Monday’s win over Norwell gives the Apaches a 29-3 record, tying them for the school record in wins in a single season. Amidst those 29 wins is a perfect 9-0 mark in the TRC as Wabash captured its first conference title in program history.

Wabash’s senior-laden squad is led by Brooke Irgang and Tabby Wagner. The latter leads the team in 266 kills while the former is first in assists with 495. Sam Irgang is second on the team in kills with 183 while leading in aces with 77 and second in blocks with 78. Mariah Wyatt leads both the team and TRC in blocks with 151.

Wabash has faced each of the five other teams in the sectional and has come away with wins in each contest.

In the bottom of the bracket, Rochester will meet Whitko in the 7:30 match-up on Thursday with North Miami waiting for the winner of the contest on Saturday. The Zebras finished the regular season 16-16 and finished tied for fourth in the TRC.

Admission in sectional contests is $6 per session or $10 for all sessions.