GOSHEN — Some tears were shed Saturday by Elkhart Memorial volleyball players while Penn players hoisted the Class 4A Sectional championship trophy.
Understandably, it was an emotional time for the Crimson Chargers after losing to the Kingsmen, 25-20, 25-15, 25-17, at Goshen High School.
It was the last high school volleyball match for the Memorial seniors.
From a historic standpoint, it was the last volleyball match for the Memorial volleyball program, as Memorial and Elkhart Central will combine next year to form Elkhart High School.
"To be honest with you it really hasn't hit me yet," said Memorial coach Jacquie Rost about Saturday night being the last volleyball match at Memorial. "I've spent 24 years as coach at Memorial, which is half of my life. I'm incredibly proud of that time period. We've had phenomenal young women come through our program. I think that will hit me personally.
"The finality of the sectional is painful because we don't get to see each other after the season. When you pick a group of girls you work hard to get along and figure out how to play the game well. Not being able to come back together is tough.
"But I give a ton of credit to Penn. They were a better offensive team tonight, without a doubt. I thought their defense was very strong as well."
It's the third straight sectional title for the Kingsmen and their 16th overall.
Penn (28-6) advances to play LaPorte (27-5) in Class 4A regional semifinal play next Saturday at 11 a.m. (EST) at LaPorte High School.
"These are great kids," said Kingsmen coach Lisa Pawlik. "They've bought in and worked so, so hard all year long. I'm just so impressed with them to be able to come out and play two really quality teams (Warsaw and Memorial) in one day and be able to do what they were able to do."
A collection of talented Penn hitters and defenders didn't look tired in the finals after winning a grueling five-set match against Warsaw in the Saturday afternoon semifinals.
"We weren't concerned at all about being tired," Pawlik said. "We train so hard. This is exactly why we work as hard as we do. The players laugh and say we act like the cross country teams sometimes. Our cross country teams are pretty darn good. I'm just so proud of them. They weren't fatigued."
Pawlik also was there to push her team to play at their best at all times. An example of that was in the third game when she called a timeout with her team leading 23-17.
"I told them to relax and play and to enjoy this," Pawlik said. "I wanted them to have a sense of urgency and not mess around. It's a game of momentum. You see teams come back from deficits all the time."
Memorial's best stretch in the match came at the start, as the Crimson Chargers led 20-18 in the first game.
Momentum then shifted to the Kingsmen, as Penn scored the final seven points of the game, capped by a game-winning kill by Molly Pooler.
"We didn't put the ball away when we needed to and (Penn) did," Rost said. "But I don't want to say that if we had won that set that everything would have been different. I sure don't know. Penn's a good team. You have to play well in every aspect to beat them. We knew that and, unfortunately, we weren't great in a couple of aspects of the game tonight."
For Penn offensively, Emily Hickey totaled 10 kills and Pooler had nine. Felisha Campanello led Memorial with five kills.
Rost was asked about her future coaching plans.
"I want to coach Elkhart High School," Rost said. "I intend to apply. There will be a lot of challenges weaving the two programs together, but volleyball is a very strong sport in the city of Elkhart. Whether I get to lead it or someone else does, I can't wait to see what we can do. I think it can be a great program."
In the semifinals, Elkhart Memorial beat Northridge, 25-15, 20-25, 25-16, 25-7, and Penn eventually prevailed in a great match against Warsaw, 20-25, 25-23, 25-22, 21-25, 15-8.
Rost pointed to serving as being the difference in Memorial's emphatic game four win.
Brooklyn Edgerton's five kills and Kendrea Randles service ace helped the Crimson Chargers race out to a 17-2 lead.
"Kendrea Randles just served really well," said Rost. "She didn't enable (Northridge) to get an aggressive first ball attack. We were immediately on defense and felt good and our transition was working because our ball control was solid. I give (Randles) a ton of credit for that run (in game four). She just really moved the ball. Serving is the most basic thing in volleyball and it's often the difference-maker. It certainly has been for us in some big matches this year."
Northridge struggled to maintain the momentum gained from winning the second game.
Memorial finished the third game on a 15-6 run before rolling in the fourth game.
"Maybe it was just a confidence thing or they were just nervous or afraid," said Raiders coach Jodie Steele when asked to give reasons why her team's play was inconsistent. "We've had several weeks of great practices where we implemented things that you saw in set two."
Northridge finished the second game on a 14-6 run.
"I think we struggled because Northridge played better (in game two)," Rost said. "I think their block was strong. I think we got a little lazy on how we needed to execute and (Northridge) made some adjustments defensively. We were trying to bang the ball in the same spots that were falling before and they weren't. There was also momentum back and forth – three to four points, three to four points – and we're not great when we start doing that."
Edgerton had 10 kills to lead Memorial offensively. Molly Brown had 10 kills for Northridge.
There were 27 ties and 18 lead changes through four games in Penn's match against Warsaw.
Game five wasn't that competitive, as the Kingsmen never trailed. Pooler's kill clinched the game and the match for the Kingsmen.
After winning the first game, the Tigers led 22-18 in the second game and were in great position to take control of the match.
But Penn fought back to win game two, as Pooler's kill clinched the game for the Kingsmen.
"We had a chance to win the second game and we let it slip away and gave them life," said Warsaw coach Rick Ashmore.
Penn looked to be in control of the match after backing up its game three win with a 20-17 lead in the fourth game.
But instead Warsaw rallied to get back into the match. The Tigers scored eight of the final nine points in the fourth game to set up a five-game thriller.
The Kingsmen got 13 kills from Emily Hickey and 10 from Pooler. Warsaw welcomed the return of standout Betty Barnett, who missed most of the season with leg injury. She finished with a team-high 10 kills.
IHSAA GOSHEN SECTIONAL
PENN DEF. ELKHART MEMORIAL 25-20, 25-15, 25-17
Memorial leaders: Aces - Margaret Wiegand 1, Jackie Fernandez 1, Maddie Boomershine 1. Assists - Wiegand 10, Boomershine 4. Kills - Felisha Campanello 5, Brooklyn Edgerton 2, Kaitlin Presswood 2. Blocks - Campanello 10, Kendrea Randles 4. Digs - Fernandez 9, Alexis Curry 4, Emily Anderson 3.
Penn leaders: Aces - Kylee Hixenbaugh 2, Addyson Kois 1, Molly Pooler 1. Assists - Kois 35. Kills - Emily Hickey 10, Pooler 9, Bella Phillips 5, Janet Moala 3, Macy Hatkevich 2, Koi 2. Blocks - Phillips 4, Kois 2, Pooler 2. Digs - Hixenbaugh 12, Allison Hickey 7, Emily Hickey 7, Whitney Zarazee 3.
Records: Memorial 19-15, Penn 28-6.
ELKHART MEMORIAL DEF. NORTHRIDGE 25-15, 20-25, 25-16, 25-7
Memorial leaders: Aces - Margaret Wiegand 3, Emily Anderson 2, Jackie Fernandez 2, Maddie Boomershine 2, Kendrea Randles 1, Alexis Curry 1. Assists - Boomershine 22, Margaret Wiegand 15. Kills - Brooklyn Edgerton 10, Kaitlin Presswood 6, Felisha Campanello 2, Randles 3, Elizabeth Weigand 2, Olivia Gonsoski 2. Blocks - Campanello 9, Randles 3, Edgerton 2, Presswood 2. Digs - Fernandez 9, Randles 5, Anderson 4, Margaret Wiegand 3.
Northridge leaders: Aces - Abby Martin 2, Makenna Myers 2, Kacie Mohan 2, Molly Brown 1. Kills - Molly Brown 10, Makena Knepp 6, Martin 5. Blocks - Myers 4, Gia Rowan 2. Digs - Holly Stutzman 8, Kacie Mohan 5, Knepp 5.
Records: Northridge 11-21.
PENN DEF. WARSAW 20-25, 25-23, 25-22, 21-25, 15-8
Penn leaders: Aces - Kylee Hixenbaugh 2, Whitney Zarazee 2, Emily Hickey 1, Molly Pooler 1. Assists - Addyson Kois 47. Kills - Emily Hickey 13, Pooler 10, Bella Phillips 8, Janet Moala 5, Lauren Baker 3, Kois 2. Blocks - Pooler 6, Moala 5, Kois 3, Emily Hickey 2, Phillips 2. Digs - Hixenbaugh 7, Emily Hickey 6, Allison Hickey 4.
Warsaw leaders: Aces - Kylie Smith 2, Katie Schmidt 2, Abbie Porter 1, Avery Gum-Hales 1, Elizabeth Schmidt 1. Kills - Betty Barnett 10, Kaylee Weeks 9, Kennedy Lauck 9, Abby Sanner 4, Gum-Hales 4, McKenna Hawblitzel 3, Gwyn Bellamy 3. Blocks - Sanner 10, Lauck 4. Digs - Smith 11, Schmidt 5, Kendra Love 3.