SYCAMORE Pure joy.
Those might be the only words to describe the look on Sarah Parker's face after each one of her 30 kills Thursday night.
But she didn't discriminate. She got just as giddy when one of her Mohawk teammates did the same against New Riegel.
In the end, there was plenty to celebrate for the Warrior faithful as Mohawk beat New Riegel, 25-15, 23-25, 27-25, 25-21.
"It was definitely the hype of the game, the atmosphere, the intensity that everyone brings," Parker said. "It's one of the things that we've been thinking about this game (for awhile)."
For the Warriors, it was a little revenge for a team that went to the state semifinal, but didn't win the Midland Athletic League, falling to the Blue Jackets in the regular season.
"There's always a few you have circled. This was one," Mohawk coach Eric Hoover said. "I'll betcha we were circled on their schedule as well. I told some of the players and (New Riegel coach) Cindy (Walerius) after the game, I wish we could play every night because this was fun. It's a great challenge and I wish we could play them every night."
Mohawk (9-1, 5-0 MAL) got its revenge in the postseason, knocking off New Riegel in the district tournament. And that's the point that Walerius focused on after the game.
"It's going to be a tough loss. We know how good they are and it's going to be difficult for anyone to beat them in our league," she said. "We (said) 'This isn't the tournament. This is the regular season. The feeling you have right now, you can still do something about it. If this was a tournament game, you'd be done. But it's not.'"
The Warriors came out on fire, leading 8-3 before the Blue Jackets (12-1, 4-1 MAL) called a timeout. Mohawk went on a 10-6 run to stretch it to 18-9 before New Riegel called another timeout. A number of hitting errors led to Mohawk taking the first game.
New Riegel led the second game early, 8-4, before letting the Warriors tie it at nine. But a Blue Jacket 9-1 run, including five straight points under the serving of Brittany Gillig, made it 18-10. Mohawk charged back with a run of its own, 12-3, to tie it at 22. Some hitting errors and a Taylor Arbogast kill gave the Blue Jackets the final 25-23 margin.
The third game was just as back and forth, with Mohawk taking an early 10-6 lead, forcing a New Riegel timeout. Whatever Walerius said worked as the Blue Jackets raged back to knot it at 14 and subsequently take an 18-14 lead. Hoover burned both of his timeouts in the span, in an effort to stop the hemorrhaging.
"I felt like we weren't being confident. All of a sudden, when you start doubting yourself, you start going for balls that aren't yours. You're not confident that your teammates are there. We got a little antsy and just started throwing our hands up at balls that we had somebody else ready to play the ball. I told them to just relax and just play," Hoover said. "You have to play those balls under control and we got out of control there for a little bit, but we were able to regain it and get back into system."
A block by Clara Adelsperger did just that, sparking a 5-1 run that ended with the two teams tied at 19. The two teams continued to trade points until it was 25 all. With that, it was Kasey Adelsperger who finished the game with a pair of kills to give Mohawk the victory.
Mohawk led 7-3 in the fourth game but the Blue Jackets came back to lead 15-11. A 5-1 spurt by Mohawk left the two teams tied at 16 but it was the closest New Riegel got the rest of the game.
"It was a good game. We knew it was going to be like this. Their serve was what really caught us off," she said. "They served really aggressively and our serve receive, honestly, that was the worst I've seen it all year but of course we haven't played this kind of competition either. Their serve really had us rattled."
Parker finished with 22 digs and six blocks. Her setter, Ashley Parker, finished with 53 assists, pushing her past 2,000 in her career and into the top 32 in the state record books.
"They told me I was close but I never knew when it was going to be and I never focused on it," she said. "I just focused on setting the ball to the hitters and it never really crossed my mind that I was this close to it, or that I was going to get it this game. It was definitely a surprise."
One of the biggest beneficiaries of those sets has been Sarah Parker, who said Ashley is a reason she's successful.
"I wouldn't trade her for anything. She's a great team player. She always has been. I couldn't ask for a better teammate," Sarah Parker said. "She's willing to adjust. If you want the ball lower, (you just have to ask). She has thick skin and it helps because as a setter, (the ball) has to be there."
Taylor McClain had 25 digs and Lynsey Trusty had 24 to go with Ashley Parker's 16. While Sarah Parker outhit the rest of her team (30-28), Kasey Adelsperger added 14 kills and Aubrie Flodd had nine.
On the other side of the net, Kara Scherger had 16 kills and 22 digs. Arbogast had 12 kills and 21 digs while Lauren Ladd had 11 kills and 17 digs. Cassandra Acree doled out 27 assists.
While the league came down to these two teams last year, Hoover said the MAL race is far from over.
"It means that we're one of two teams that don't have a loss in the league. One of our goals is to win the league and obviously this is a huge, huge hurdle toward that goal," Hoover said. "We got some tough games left for sure. Tiffin Calvert doesn't have a loss and Fremont St. Joe only has one and we go to both those places. Those are going to be tough. It just kind of gives us a little confidence and we felt like they took it from us last year and it kind of puts us in the driver's seat a little bit."