Winners of the last eight league championships, including the defunct Northern Ohio League, the hosts overcame a deep deficit in Game 3 to knock off Division II, No. 4-ranked Bellevue, 25-15, 26-24, 28-26, in SBC Lake division play on Tuesday at Norwalk High School.
"Our defense was just phenomenal tonight," Norwalk coach Sarah Kipp said. "Lindsay Koenig (31 digs) in the back row picked up everything. She was just hard to put anything down on."
With the win, Norwalk improved to 7-5 overall and 4-1 in the Lake, while Bellevue fell to 9-1, 4-1. Perkins is ins second place at 3-2 and hosts Bellevue next Tuesday.
"Shutting down their big hitters was our concern," Kipp said. "I think our block did a nice job giving them trouble."
The Lady Red controlled most of the third game before Norwalk's comeback. Two kills from Peyton Vogel and Madison Hrynciw and one from McKenna Davis opened an 8-2 lead for Bellevue, prompting a timeout from Kipp. The lead reached 11-2 after two Norwalk errors and another kill from Hrynciw.
Norwalk battled evenly over the next series of points, but only got as close as five points at 19-14. The Lady Red scored the next three points for a 22-14 lead, but that is when Norwalk made its move.
Delaney Thomas registered a block and a kill, and Claire Kelley and Marie Clouse each smacked a kill to help get Norwalk within 22-20, as Bellevue called its second timeout.
Davis and Taylor Baxter blasted consecutive kills to give the Lady Red four points up 24-20, but Norwalk was not done. Two aces from Kelley, as well as two Bellevue errors knotted the game at 24-all. Norwalk took the lead twice at 25-24 and 26-25, but Bellevue fended off match point both times. Carly Bilton smacked one of her 11 kills for a 27-26 lead, then tallied one of her eight blocks to finish off the win and unlikely finish in Game 3.
"It is a game of momentum," Bellevue coach Karen Irons said. "Norwalk played great defense the entire match. They got the ball back and if you can not serve receive, then everything falls apart and that is what happened in that run. We could not get the ball to our setter."
Both teams came out strong in Game 1. Norwalk led, 7-4 early, but it was the largest lead either team in the first half of the game. The Lady Red bounced back and tied the game 14-14 after a kill from Vogel and an ace from Molly Bullion, but that is when Norwalk kicked it into another gear.
Three straight kills — two from Bilton — opened a 17-14 lead for the Truckers and forced Irons into a timeout. An error by the Lady Red pushed the lead to four, but Baxter responded with a kill to briefly halt the momentum.
It was indeed brief, as Norwalk ran off the last seven points of the game — capped by a block from Thomas, for the early lead.
"I think our serve receive was our down fall," Irons said. "We have not had that all season. Norwalk serves tough. We had a lot of hesitation and that has not happened before."
Game 2 saw both teams step up their game. Norwalk jumped out to a 8-3 lead despite exquisite hitting from Vogel. She, along with Baxter helped the Lady Red recover and even take a 15-14 lead after a Davis kill. Norwalk won four of the next five points and never trailed in Game 2 again.
The lead was 23-21 when Vogel hit one of her 11 kills and an error from Norwalk tied the game. The game was also tied 24-24 before Mya Neuberger registered a kill and an error by the Lady Red put Norwalk in command.
"It is not just one girl leading the way," Kipp said of her team that does not have a senior on it. "It is all of the girls as a whole — the kids on the floor and the kids on the bench — it is all of them working together, playing together, and encouraging each other."
Baxter tallied 23 digs, 13 kills, and two aces for Bellevue while Davis added five kills. Vogel had 19 digs and four blocks while Hyrnciw registered 15 digs and six kills. Bullion had 30 assists.
"Bellevue and Norwalk is a rivalry and it has been for years," Irons said. "We know they have the tradition and they fight for it. They have won eight titles in a row and if you want to win it, you have to knock them off. It does not matter that we were 9-0 coming in. We have to come in every night and do our job."
Kelley matched Bilton's 11 kills while Olivia Ward totalled 28 assists, 16 digs, and seven kills. Neuberger contributed six kills and Thomas had 11 blocks.
"You have to take care of your own play," Kipp said. "We did that tonight. Bellevue is a very, very good team. Not only do they have four big girls across the front, they have a defense that does not quit. Do not let what we did tonight take away from what they are and what they do."