Even though volleyball matches are played as a best-of-five, the match between Northwood and Woodmore came down to a best-of-three.
That advantage went to the Rangers as they topped the Wildcats 25-19, 19-25, 25-14, 25-20 in a Division III sectional semifinal played at Lake.
Northwood advances to meet top-seeded Otsego on Saturday at 2 p.m.
“I have a lot of confidence in these kids,” Northwood coach Doreen Birney said. “I don’t like to take a lot of timeouts because I think we have a lot of team chemistry and even when we get down, they pick each other up.”
The Rangers controlled much of the first game after an early 5-5 tie. They took early control with a 9-5 lead, prompting a timeout from Wildcat coach Erin Reynolds. Northwood continued to hold a four- or five-point lead and pushed it to eight at 19-11 on a hitting error by Kanna Sasscer. Woodmore battled back to cut the lead to three on a service ace by Meagan Smith, but the Rangers seized control and won five of the last seven points for the opening game.
Game Two was much of the same, only in Woodmore’s favor.
A 5-5 tie disappeared as the Wildcats reeled off six straight points, using untimely Northwood hitting errors for the edge. The Rangers didn’t give up easily, cutting the lead to 13-11 on an ace by Kristen Sawmiller, but six of the next seven points went on the scoreboard in favor of Woodmore. An error by Danielle Brewer gave the Wildcats the win in the second game.
“We knew it was going to come down to who showed up and played the best,” Reynolds said. “Unfortunately for us, it was Northwood. I think our girls gave 100 percent effort, but it wasn’t enough.”
Game Three was where Northwood took control of the match. They raced out to a 10-2 lead in game three. The Wildcats got within four points at 17-13, but solid hitting from Brewer, Brianna Crispen and Kaelynn Conley won eight of the final nine points in the game.
It looked as though Woodmore would push the match to a deciding fifth game, taking a 14-9 lead after the game started in a 8-8 deadlock. Two kills by another solid hitter, Alexis Rymers cut it to three and superb serving by Northwood would tie the match later, 16-16. They would then run off five straight points for a lead Woodmore couldn’t recover from. A hitting error by Brittany Brugger sent the Northwood fans home happy.
“We have great team chemistry,” Brewer said. “This is our coach’s second year and the chemistry is better than ever.”
Madeline Phillips had 15 digs and eight kills for the Wildcats, while Smith tallied 13 kills and three blocks.