FAIRBORN, Ohio - Genoa came out swinging, but when the near-misses started adding up Versailles came on strong and quickly ended the Comets first trip to the state volleyball tournament.
With senior outside hitter Kara Hemmelgarn hammering 10 kills, the Tigers (22-6) eliminated Genoa in a Division III semifinal last night 15-13, 15-8 in the Nutter Center at Wright State University.
“From my perspective, we took some big swings there when we had that lead in Game 1 and they missed by just a little bit,” Genoa coach Brian Yale said. “When that happened, it kind of took some of the wind out of our sails.
“We kept fighting with it, but then we d miss by another inch, then miss by another inch. It just kept adding up and they took advantage of it.”
Match momentum took a turn after the ninth-ranked Comets (24-4) took a 13-8 lead in the first game. Genoa lost serve once by hitting into the net and again as Hemmelgarn dinked one in for Versailles. A Hemmelgarn kill made it 13-11 before the Tigers strung together four straight points on misses by Genoa to take the game 15-13.
It was pretty much all downhill from there for the Comets. Versailles jumped ahead 4-0 before Genoa closed to within 4-3 on kills by Sarah Gerkensmeyer and Courtney Nissen. The Comets tied the score at 7-7, but Versailles ran off the next five points.
“We tried to keep the momentum, or at least get it back on our side,” said senior middle hitter Nicole Nissen, who paced the Comets with 10 kills but also had eight misses. “But nothing was falling for us. It just wasn t coming and they finished us off.”
When junior Sarah Meyer (18 digs) served two that the Comets couldn t return, Versailles led 14-8, and Hemmelgarn closed out the match with her 10th kill.
“It feels amazing. It s just a dream come true,” Hemmelgarn said of the semifinal win. “We surprised everyone. Being the underdog really helped us play.
“We believed in ourselves. We knew we could do it. There s so much less pressure when no one expects you to get this far.”
Part of Versailles success could be attributed to finesse more than power.
“A lot of off-speed stuff came our way,” Yale said. “I don t know if we were sitting back waiting for harder shots, but at times we were a little bit on our heels. A couple of miss-hits fell, and those with our slight misses kind of added together and caused the difference.”
Gerkensmeyer added seven kills and 11 digs for Genoa. Carrie Gnepper had 28 assists and 12 digs.
Nicole Nissen summed things up afterward: “I think they really focused on blocking everything. They just found the holes on their blocks and holes on the court. They were aggressive and that s what won it for them.”
“[This season] was a lot of fun,” said Yale. “[This loss] is going to hurt for a while, but we need to keep our heads up. We took the strides we needed to take.”
Versailles advances to the final at 11 a.m. tomorrow against second-ranked Orrville (27-1), which trounced Westfall 15-1, 15-2.