There was no championship at stake for the Delta volleyball team on Thursday night.
The Eagles had already let two of those slip through their grasps earlier this month by losing to Wapahani in the Delaware County Tournament final and then falling to Yorktown with the Hoosier Heritage Conference title on the line.
Yet, the euphoric celebration by the Eagles from the players on down to the coaching staff revealed just how significant their rematch against Wapahani was to them.
Just like in the county final, the two teams played to a fifth and decisive set, but this time the 3A No. 2 Eagles prevailed 25-20, 29-27, 24-26, 24-26, 15-6 and spoiled senior night for the No. 5 Raiders.
Delta (26-4) opened the match with libero Teaghan Dishman sticking virtually every pass to setter Madison Bergren, who exposed holes in the Wapahani back row by throwing the ball into the wide-open back right corner.
Her aggressive play at the net prevented Wapahani from stacking its block on her outside hitters, Audrey Woodin and Emily Langguth, or middle attacker Marissa Elam. Bergren and all three of those hitters totaled double-digit kills.
“Our passing came out ready and focused and it was a big difference from county to tonight,” Bergren said. “Teaghan was phenomenal.”
Dishman handled the Wapahani service pressure with relative ease in finishing with a match-high 32 digs. The Eagles benefited from 12 Wapahani service errors, too.
The Raiders (25-2) still managed to somehow scrap out the third and fourth sets to send the match to a decisive fifth. Seniors Lindi Thomas and Courtney Mitchell rallied the Raiders. Thomas totaled 28 kills and 22 digs and Mitchell complemented her with 23 kills.
Wapahani prepared for this match without its head coach Jared Richardson at its practices.
Richardson spent the previous few days in the Indiana University Health Ball Memorial Hospital emergency department to be treated for a partially collapsed lung. He intended to only sit on the bench for senior night and let his assistant coach and sister Jenna be the primary coach.
The siblings switched roles after the Raiders dropped the opening two sets, though.
That move paid off until the fifth set when the Eagles regrouped and opened by scoring eight of the first 11 points en route to the statement victory.
“I couldn’t yell and I think that hurt (my players),” Richardson said. “When a coach can yell, kids can get a step ahead on a play because of something I see from the sidelines, and I couldn’t yell so they always had to rely on themselves, and it didn’t work.”
This marked the first five-set victory for the Eagles this season. Delta lost its previous three to New Castle, Hamilton Southeastern and Wapahani.
“We’ve been in a lot of game five situations and not pulled it out, so that was important to let them know they can win in that pressure situation,” Delta coach Heidi Zickgraf said.
The two regular-season matches between the 3A programs turned out to be five-set thrillers. There will in all probability be a round 3 on Oct. 26 in the semifinals of the Delta Sectional.
“I’m excited for the next (match),” Richardson said. “I told them before the (county) it was round 1 of 3, and now it’s round 2 of 3, and I’m excited for 3 of 3.”