Golden Eagles spike Braves in three
By ERIC CLINE
For The Sunbury News
When Big Walnut and Olentangy met at the beginning of the season, the Braves played a strong game, but the Golden Eagles won in three games. Now, in the middle of the season with both challenging for the Ohio Capital Conference Capital Division title, it happened all over again.
Olentangy was solid on hitting and strong on serves, but the Braves could never put Big Walnut away, and the Golden Eagles won a three-set, 25–18, 25–21, 25–23 decision last Thursday (September 20) night at Olentangy High School.
“I was really proud of our girls tonight,” Big Walnut coach Ron Lehman said. “They really came out and played hard and fought the whole way through. They were down a few times, but they battled back.”
Big Walnut (9–4, 8–0 OCC Capital) never had anything easy with Olentangy (10–4, 6–2). The Braves challenged the Golden Eagles all evening, helped by improved hitting in the middle from Lauren Judge, strong outside hitting from both Ganiru Anunike and Kasia Walczak, good back row defense from Jamie Riley and Madison Griffin, and solid setting from Sarah Arango.
“That (improving the middle hitting) was the goal,” Olentangy coach Michelle Mimna said. “At the time (of our first meeting), we were playing our third match of the season and we had no middle presence. Tonight we proved when we get our middles involved, we’re a better team.”
“I thought Olentangy played great,” Lehman said. “They have some really good hitters here. One of their girls was hitting over our block and was tough to defend, but we were able to dig her a few times.”
But when push came to shove, Big Walnut was able to assert themselves as the dominant force late in each set. Olentangy had its chances, but stumbled in the stretch.
“We had a real problem competing tonight,” Mimna said. “I don’t know if it looks that way because the scores were close, but we as a coaching staff feel Big Walnut never felt in danger of losing the match, and if we can’t do that, there’s an issue there.”
Olentangy was within two points of the Golden Eagles in the first set only to have Big Walnut win the final five points on two Claire Chatterton aces, kills from Chatterton and Kalynn Bowmar and a Brave error.
Late in the second set, Big Walnut trailed 20–19, but won six of the next seven points, helped by two kills and two aces from Natalie Chatterton. In the third, Olentangy led 5–1 and 6–2 early, but Big Walnut tied the score at seven later with the help of Brooke Hatfield and Abby Painter.
Later in the set, Olentangy held an 18–17 edge, only to see Natalie Chatterton again take over, recording five kills in the third rotation.
“We were spreading the ball around well,” Lehman said. “I thought Brooke Hatfield had a really good match. She had a lot of kills for us on the right side and Natalie did an awesome job in the middle. She played really well.”
“They had momentum plays go their way; those plays where you clearly thought would end on their side,” Mimna said. “It was a good effort on both sides, but we were up 6–2 in the third set and we lost by two. It’s eerily similar. We were up at their place and wound up losing, so it disconcerting.”
Serving was a problem for both teams in the first match, but both served the ball very well all evening long. Passing was also very strong for Big Walnut thanks in part to libero Alexis Newman, and Morgan Alley was strong at the setter position.
“I thought our kids served well tonight and I thought our passing was solid for the most part,” Lehman said. “Morgan Alley did a nice job at setter tonight as well.”
BIG WALNUT 25–25, CANAL WINCHESTER 14–20 — The Golden Eagles relied on balance to dispatch the Indians on Saturday, September 15, at Hilliard Davidson.
Alexis Newman (9-for-10) and Kylee Williams (5-for-6) led Big Walnut’s serving joined by Krista Schmidt (8-for-12, 2 aces) and Natalie Chatterton (4-for-8, 2 aces). Abby Painter recorded 7 kills, Morgan Alley had 45 sets and 23 assists. Newman added 10 digs and Chatterton 5 blocks.
HILLIARD DAVIDSON 25–25, BIG WALNUT 23–21 — The host Wildcats held off the visiting Golden Eagles in two tightly-contested games on Saturday, September 15, at Hilliard.
Newman turned in a strong performance for Big Walnut, going 7-for-10 in serving with 3 aces while contributing a team-high 10 digs. Morgan Alley also recorded 3 aces, adding 44 sets and 17 assists. Natalie Chatterton led the Golden Eagles in kills with 7 and blocks with 10.