One more point and it could have been a completely different match.
After Norwalk took the opening game, it also had game point in Game 2.
But Norwalk did not convert, then could do little to stop Willard, as the Crimson Flashes topped Norwalk, 15-25, 26-24, 25-18, 25-22 in a Division II district semifinal at Seneca East High School on Tuesday.
"It was a huge point," Norwalk coach Sarah Kipp said. "We just did not finish. I think our youth and inexperience come into play when you look at the lineup on the other side of the net. Willard has a lot of experience over there."
No. 2 Willard improved to 17-7 overall and will face third-seeded Perkins (18-6) for the district championship at 6 p.m. back at Seneca East on Thursday. Perkins took out top-seeded Bellevue (18-6) in the night's first match, 25-10, 25-22, 25-10.
"When we can pass, we are pretty hard to stop," Willard coach Ashley Bond said. "It is fun to watch."
Norwalk (14-11) took a 22-20 lead in Game 2 after kills from Olivia Ward and Mya Neuberger — but Willard responded. Lydia Wiers and McKenna Stephens each put a kill down to take a 23-22 lead. Norwalk got kills from Neuberger and Carly Bilton for the 24-23 lead.
But, Wiers blasted two kills and Norwalk was whistled for a four-hit violation to tie the game.
"We came out too excited (in Game 1)," Bond said. "We had to go back and play our game rather than being so excited. We played well.”
Willard controlled Game 3 from the start and never trailed in the game. The Flashes slowly but surely maintained a comfortable lead of at least three points.
Norwalk did get within two points at 17-15 after a block by Delaney Thomas, but the Flashes were again there to respond. Cassidy Crawford and Chloe Wiers each recorded a kill to extend the lead to 21-15. Norwalk drew within five points, but a kill and block from Lydia Wiers gave Willard the lead.
"We came out, got after it, and played well in Game 1," Kipp said. "After that, we lulled ourself into a false sense of security. We did not come out and play the rest of the games like we should have."
Norwalk finally got a lead in the fourth game when Bilton's block made it 9-8. The lead was short lived as Willard won the next four points and again, consistently maintained a lead.
The lead was 17-13 when Norwalk put together one last run together.
Marie Clouse registered a kill before a block from Thomas cut the lead to 17-16. The teams battled back and forth, and Norwalk even took a 22-21 lead after a kill from Neuberger. Bond took her second timeout and the Flashes controlled the rest of the match. After a service error by Norwalk, Lydia Wiers recorded her last two kills of the night and finished off the match with a block for the big win.
"It was 22-21," Bond said. "We knew we wanted that game because we did not want to go to a fifth game."
It was all Norwalk early on. It used a run of nine straight points behind great serving from Claire Kelley to seize a 14-5 lead. Willard never got its footing in the game and could not make a run. Kills from Ward and Thomas gave Norwalk the early lead.
"Norwalk came out in Game 1 and made us look bad," Bond said. "We could not serve. We could not serve receive. We just could not do anything well, but Norwalk did everything well."
Lydia Wiers paced Willard with 25 kills and nine blocks.
"At times, we were successful defending her," Kipp said. "She is going to get her kills. She is a fantastic player for a reason. She is going to score and she did that. She picked us apart and found a way to score no matter what."
Chloe Wiers had nine kills and two blocks. Crawford added seven kills and Alyse Cok had four kills.
"We had not seen Norwalk all year," Bond said. "But, I have coached most of those players. So I knew who they were and how good they are. Not seeing them and having to go play them was tough."
Thomas led Norwalk with 10 kills and nine blocks while Bilton had nine kills. Neuberger registered nine kills while Elyse Balduff tallied 15 digs. Ward had 15 digs and Haleigh Skinner recorded 12 digs.
"Overall, I am proud of our girls," Kipp said. "They came in day 1 and work hard and we were young and inexperienced this year. We had leadership step up through the experiences of the season. We have a full roster coming back next year."
Perkins 3, Bellevue 0
In the night's first match, SBC Lake champion Bellevue was outmatched by a Perkins team that attacked early and often.
"We came out and we were a step behind the whole night," Bellevue coach Karen Irons said. "We could not get anything going. Everybody knows that when you can not pass the ball, you can not play the game."
The Pirates took an early 11-4 lead in Game 1 and won eight straight points for a 21-6 lead.
In Game 2, the Lady Red played better, but could not quite do enough to take the lead. Perkins used balanced hitting, led by Riley Knupke to counter anything Bellevue tried to do defensively.
Game 3 was nearly a repeat of Game 1 except that Bellevue actually led, 5-2 early. But, the Pirates responded with a 13-1 run for a 15-6 lead. After a kill by Taylor Baxter, Perkins won five more points in a row and were never really challenged on this evening.
"We fell back into that pattern in Game 3," Irons said. "We were a step behind and could not get yo the ball. We played tentative. We were not aggressive."
Payton Vogel led the Redmen with 13 kills, 13 digs, and three blocks. Baxter added seven kills and eight digs while Molly Bullion had 22 assists and 15 digs. Madison Hrynciw added 11 digs.
Bellevue says good-bye to four seniors: the Lake Division Oustanding Performer Vogel, Morgan Dendinger, Riley Mohr and McKenna Davis.
"Those four girls for the last four years have given their heart and soul to me," Irons said. "Three of them are three-sport athletes, so I get them for four months. They work hard. They are great athletes."