By Rob Kiser
KETTERING — It wasn’t hard to see the matchup issue for the Miami East volleyball team when the Vikings took the floor for warmups with Versailles in a Division III regional semifinal Thursday at Trent Arena.
Versailles had four girls on the roster at 6-foot or taller — while Miami East middle Lydia Conley is the Vikings’ tallest player at 5-9.
“We have gone against bigger teams all year,” Miami East coach Dan Peterson said. “But Versailles’ bigs are a whole different animal.”
And that proved to be the case as Versailles improved to 17-10 with a 25-11, 25-21, 25-16 win over a scrappy East team that closed at 18-9.
“We had another real good season,” Peterson said. “We overcame a lot to get here. I told the kids, there is nothing to hang our heads about.”
Versailles will play 24-3 Marion Pleasant, which defeated Anna in four close sets Thursday in the other semifinal.
“It is just exciting to know that we are one win from going back to state,” Versailles’ 6-foot-1 junior middle Lindsey Winner said.
And 6-foot right side hitter Elizabeth Ording, who teams with Winner to give Versailles one of the most dynamic 1-2 combos in the front row, agreed.
“It’s tournament time,” Ording, a southpaw who rocked one shot after another at the Miami East defense, said. “It’s time to go.”
In the first set, libero Caitlin McEldowney had a 10-point service run as Versailles turned a 12-9 lead to 22-9 and the Tigers finished the set off a 25-11.
During that run, Ording had four kills and a tip — as well a kill for sideout at 11-9 to put McEldowney at the service line.
“I can’t say enough about Elizabeth Ording,” Versailles coach Kenzie Bruggeman said. “She just has it. And its because she has been working at since she was a freshman. It wasn’t always there, but she gets it. Even when the set isn’t perfect, she can find a way to hit the ball.”
And at the one critical point in the match, it was again Ording who took over.
Two kills by Nichole Hood helped the Vikings rally from an 18-12 deficit in the second set.
Gabrielle Hawkins served four points during the run and two more by Ashlyn Monnin on Versailles hitting errors gave East a 20-19 lead.
“I was thinking if we could get to 22 at that point, we would be in pretty good shape,” Peterson said. “We had both Winner (back row) and Ording (on bench) out. But, that didn’t happen. It is what it is.”
A missed served tied it at 20 and Ording rotated in to the match.
“I was thinking, let’s go,” Ording said. “Get to 25. That’s what I was thinking. We wanted to win in three sets tonight.”
And Bruggeman was thinking the same thing.
“I told Kelsey (Custenborder), you need to get Elizabeth (Ording) involved immediately,” Bruggeman said.
Custenborder did exactly that.
“It is like a dream setting for them (Lindsey Winner, Elizabeth Ording),” Custenborder said. “They make you look good.”
Ording had two kills on Custenborder’s serve to make it 22-20, before Sophie Jacomet had a kill for East to make it 22-21.
Ording had another kill to make it 23-21 and Alexa Didier served out the set with an East hitting error and another kills by Olding.
“We do (thrive on those big moments),” Ording said. “Lindsey (Winner) push each other and make each other better.”
It was Winner who turned the momentum in sets three.
East had closed within 11-9 after a kill by Jacomet.
After a kill by Ording for sideout, Didier would serve seven unanswered points to make it 19-9 and Versailles would finish it off 25-16.
The first three points on Didier’s serve were blocks by Winner.
“Two of those were stuff blocks,” Bruggeman said.
Along with setting, Custenborder is also and excellent blocker, while McEldowney made one great did after another from her libero position.
“Blocking is something we work on all the time, because I think it is one of our strengths,” Bruggeman said. “Caitlin (McEldowney) is amazing out there. She wasn’t going after some of those balls at the beginning of the year. She has the ability to get to those balls and manipulate them where she wants to put them.”
And now Versailles is one match from returning to state after a 12-10 regular season.
“Playing in the MAC, I don’t know how to explain it,” Winner said. “It makes you play like you have never played before. It prepares you for these big matches.”
Rob Kiser can be reached at (937) 451-3334.