Inspired Delta pushed Wapahani to the brink Thursday night in the opening match of the Delaware County Volleyball Tournament.
Delta coach Heidi Zickgraf lost her mother, who died last week at the age of 68, and she and her players attended the funeral service just a few hours before their county tournament match. The emotionally-charged Eagles then played arguably their best match of the season for their coach, but the tournament host Raiders held on to win the decisive fifth set 15-12 and advance to the semifinals.
Now all that stands between Wapahani and its first county championship since 2008 is potentially two matches against fellow defending state champions.
“It’s really remarkable if you think about it from a county standpoint,” Wapahani coach Mike Lingenfelter said. “There’s nowhere else in the world where you would play in a county tournament where you would have to open with a team the caliber of Delta, which playing as emotionally strong as they did (Thursday) is as good a team as you’re going to play all season, so you open with a team in Delta and then to win it, you have to beat two defending state champions in a row.”
The Class 2A No. 1 and defending state champion Raiders will play Class A No. 5 and reigning state champion Wes-Del at 11 a.m. today in the opening semifinal. The winner of that match will potentially play 3A No. 1 and defending state champion Yorktown in the championship match at 7 p.m. The Tigers will play Cowan in the second semifinal at approximately 12:30 p.m.
Yorktown will take the court this afternoon with only one loss on its impressive résumé. Wapahani managed to knock the Tigers off in five back in late August. Since then, Yorktown is a perfect 16-0 with wins over five ranked teams, highlighted by beating Class 4A No. 3 Avon last Saturday.
“The one thing I said to them after Wapahani, the message for weeks has just been we’ve got to get tougher, and we’ve got to play hard all of the time, and we’ve got to go after people,” Yorktown coach Stephanie Bloom said. “I felt like I saw that in them against Avon, so that’s a positive as a coach to see they’re getting the message, and they’re responding in the right way.”
Bloom is one of five coaches in the history of the county tournament to guide her team to three consecutive championships. Former Delta coaches Greg Dewey and Robb Painter each won three in a row. Jim Craig led Wapahani to four straight (1981-84) and a total of 11 county titles in a 14-year span. Wes-Del won the first five county tournaments (1975-79) under the direction of Kay Saunders.