FORT WAYNE — Bellmont persevered against a pesky Norwell squad Saturday night, closing out the Knights in three hard-fought games to earn a sixth straight sectional title and the 27th in the history of Bellmont volleyball.
"I was proud the way the girls fought through Norwell's fierceness. They wouldn't go away, but we wouldn't give in," said Krull of Bellmont's 25-14, 25-17, and 25-20 victory.
Despite the loss, Norwell coach Nicole Neuenschwander was very pleased. "It was a great way to end the season. We played our best. We've a very young team, and to play that way, to play that hard, that aggressive, against seasoned veterans, was just what we wanted," stated Neuenschwander.
"I'm pretty happy with the way the season ended. I honestly don't feel like today was a loss, but a step in the right direction. They finally bought into the idea that they deserved to be on the court with a good team like Bellmont."
Earlier in the day, Bellmont knocked off Peru in three games, 11, 11 and 7, while Norwell disposed of host Wayne to set up the Sectional 22 (3A) title match.
The win lands Bellmont at home on Tuesday as the Squaws host Western for a 3A Regional championship.
Bellmont coach Craig Krull would like to see a big welcoming committee for Western. "I want to make a challenge to the city of Decatur, I expect to see everybody out there on Tuesday. We're going to host the regional, and it might be just once because we don't know how the tourney is going to go (in the future)," said the coach.
In recent years, the winner of a four-team regional went to state. The winner on Tuesday will advance to a four-team semistate in Plymouth.
"I want to see all the fans who are normally there and more. I want the place to be obnoxious for the team that comes in. Let's get the place rockin' for Tuesday. We seem to play better when it's on the line."
Bellmont, now 31-4, righted itself in all three games to take control near the midway point.
In the first game, Alex Fuelling (18 kills, 3 blocks) blasted down a kill for a 15-11 BHS lead, then Chelsea Colclasure poured in five straight service points as the Squaws pulled away. A pair of kills by Payton Schultz and one by senior Emily Pierce finished off Norwell.
In the second game, a Lauren Klansek (7 kills, 2 blocks, 5 aces) kill cut the BHS lead to 12-9. Fuelling chalked up a kill, Pierce an ace, Madison Schultz a tap kill and Steph Shoup a block-kill for a 20-11 advantage.
Norwell turned up the defensive volume and the Squaws hit a rough patch. A Bailee Hankenson kill made it 24-17, and a hitting error ended the game.
Norwell came out strong and Bellmont lethargic in game three as the Knights jumped out 8-3. Madison Schultz, who normally does not serve, got on a roll and rifled the ball across in an eight-point run. Fuelling scored on a block, a kill and a tap in the run.
Later a block by Maddy Schultz and two kills by Pierce made it 20-15 Bellmont. Norwell closed to within two at 20-18, then Fuelling took charge with three kills for a 23-19 score. The senior then lunged at a ball five feet outside of the court off the front left corner, and sent the ball just past the official and across the court where it fell just out of reach by a Norwell frontliner. It took three officials and a one-minute meeting for the kill ruling on the shot of the night.
"We had a tendencey to get a little passive, but then we started diving and digging the ball, and things started to happen and brought the excitability back. Did we play our best, NO! But as I told the girls in the locker room this morning, it's all about winning. It doesn't matter how pretty or how ugly it was. One team goes on and one goes home, and I want to be the team that goes on," said Krull.
Krull noted that Fuelling started slowly, but warmed up. "In that last game when we needed her to step up, she did. It was just a matter of her staying with it and fighting through it," offered the BHS coach.
Colclasure had an ace and 21 digs. "Besides her serving, her defense was key. She really picked up a lot of off-speed stuff. She dove and made a couple of left-handed left handed digs. She can bring that intensity all the time. The sectional finals is a lot more pressure, and she stepped up and played well," said Krull of his senior libero.
Madison Schultz had just six kills, but was solid on defense. adding 7 digs and a block. "Maddys' the exception to the rule that 6-2 girls can't play defense. She played well in the back row and came up big with her service," lauded Krull.
Pierce finished with 7 kills, 9 digs and an ace while Payton Schultz put down 3 kills with 2 digs and 2 blocks. Jess Sweney had 2 kills and 2 block-assists. Bailee Hankenson had 3 kills and a block with 5 assists while Holly Hankenson added a kill and a block.
Shoup put up 31 assists with 2 digs while Allison Gutierrez had 4 digs and Erin Hunter 3.
Laken Chaney and Elizabeth Ault both had 10 digs for Norwell. Klansek and Amanda McAfee both had 2 blocks.
Squaws Rout Tigers
Fuelling put up 16 kills, 3 aces and a solo block in the win over Peru, while Payton Schultz added 10 kills, 4 aces and three blocks. Holly Hankenson put down 4 kills with 2 digs and two block-assists. Bailee Hankenson had 5 assists, 2 kills and 2 digs.
Maddy Schultz put up 5 kills while Shoup had 2 kills, 27 assists and 2 digs. Colclasure had 2 aces and 10 digs versus Peru. Pierce had 4 aces and a kill while Sweney had a kill and a block. Gutierrez supplied 3 aces and 4 digs. Gabby Weaver added 2 digs.