FORT WAYNE — Bellmont lost three Division-1 players from it's 3A state championship team. Here's the bad news for the Squaws' opponents, it was hard to tell much difference in quality Tuesday in the season opening sweep at Bishop Dwenger.
"We might surprise some people," said Bellmont coach Craig Krull, who obviously was very pleased with what he witnessed in the 25-19, 25-18, 25-7 wins in the Saints' gym.
"People know Payton (Schultz) and (Steph) Shoup, but who are these other kids? They look just as strong. From what they know about our losses, they think we might be down, but if our girls get into a rhythm, they can obviously play. But it did surprise who well they played tonight," offered Krull.
The Squaws came out blazing, jumping out 5-1 in the first game. Behind 6-4 middle hitter Maddie Mayers (11 Kills), Dwenger fought back. A Mayers spike on a rare long hit by Bellmont went for a kill and the 15-all tie.
Bailee Hankenson then struck on a pair of right side kills, then Shoup discovered her power game for a pair of scores. Later, a Bailee tip over the Mayers' block capped off the win.
Bellmont jumped out 7-1 in the second game as Erin Hunter rolled out a pair of aces from her heavy, cross court jump-serve. The Squaws rallied back again and took control late for the win. In the third game, Dwenger lost it's will to stay with the defending champs.
"That last game was really not indicative of how we played in the first two games," stated Dwenger coach John Minnick.
"We had six serving errors in that first game, and maybe 20 for the match. We've got a different look this year, got some kids that need experience and we're trying to do some different things. Once we figure out what we're trying to do, we'll be a lot better."
Minnick is trying to get as many looks as possible for Mayers and is switching to a triangle offense. "Once we get things going, we'll be a force to be reckoned with," offered the coach.
Krull was trying to find some items he could use for criticism. "Our serving could be more aggressive, and we made some little mistakes on defensive plays,," said Krull, reaching.
"If we played perfect the first match, there's no where to go but down. The girls know individually there are things we can improve on."
Senior Payton Schultz led the way, converting 9-15 kill attempts while twin sisters Holly and Bailee Hankenson recorded eight and six kills respectively. Steph Shoup added six kills while leading the team in assists with 14 and freshman Janaya Wilder started her varsity career off with four kills.
Bailee Hankenson added 12 assists to the Bellmont cause. Erin Hunter and Shoup each contributed a pair of aces.
Defensively, Allison Gutierrez adjusted to her new libero role by topping the Bellmonters with 17 digs while Holly Hankenson had eight, Hunter six, Shoup five, Holly Hankenson three, and Schultz two. Schultz was credited with two assisted blocks while Bailee Hankenson had one solo and one assisted block and Shoup had one assisted rejection.
Brie Rahrig added 8 kills and 3 blocks to the Dwenger numbers while Marissa Jasinski churned up 13 assists and Leah Stetzel pulled up 8 digs.
It was obvious that this group of Bellmonters had not stage fright. "Our girls did a good job of maintaining what they're supposed to do. The mental toughness of this team I have no trouble with right now," praised the coach.
The coach liked what he saw out of his leaders. "Shoup says she wants to be more vocal, and she definitely is, and now, suddenly she's hitting and doing a nice job. She's a senior, a four-year starter, and now she decides to play. Better late than never," kidded Krull.
"The seniors are dedicated to maintain what we did last year, and the younger kids are coming with them..Give Steph a lot of credit, and Payton is right in there. Allison says she wants to fill Chelsea Colclasure's shoes, and tonight she did a great job of that. She was under control and just didn't make mistakes.
"And Erin Hunter looked confident and had the big serve. She's always had that but never had the opportunity to shine. Our role players from last year are stepping up and making plays."
In junior varsity action, Bellmont had to rally to pick up a three-set victory. After dropping the opener to Bishop Dwenger 25-20, the Squaws took round two 25-18 and then narrowly copped the decisive third encounter 15-14.
Taylor Rhymer had four kills and digs to top Bellmont while Audrey Schultz and Autumn Konkle each had five kills. Carley Williams picked up seven digs, Madison Glancy had four kills, Natalie Busse had three kills, the team's only ace, and two digs, Madeline Mann had two kills and two digs, and Devon Schultz picked up two digs.
In the freshman tilt, Bellmont scored a 25-22, 25-7 triumph with Rachel Salerno scooping up 15 digs along with seven kills to lead the Squaws in both categories. Amanda Hunter was the go-to person in assists with 12 and added three digs and a kill, Mindy Loshe had two digs, Ali Shaffer had three kills and an ace, Sadie Alberson had five digs, three kills and aces, and two blocks, Kenzi Funk had two blocks and three kills, and Dana Garcia finished with two assists.
Bellmont will open its home season on the court Thursday night against Woodlan with freshman and reserve action at 6:15 p.m. and varsity play at approximately 7:15 p.m.