After missing an early season matchup, Lydia Wiers made quite the impact for Willard on Thursday night.
The senior pounded out 29 kills and registered five blocks as the No. 2 seed Crimson Flashes topped fourth-seeded Perkins, 25-14, 20-25, 25-18, 25-23, in a Division II district championship match at Seneca East High School.
"The blocking part was the biggest thing," Willard coach Ashley Bond said of Wiers' presence. "Obviously, she puts the ball down on the court, but blocking — we took their best hitter and made her change her approach a bit."
Willard improved to 18-7 overall and advances to the regional semifinal vs. Wauseon (21-5) at 6 p.m. Thursday at Lexington High School.
"Tonight, we came out ready to play from Game 1," Bond said. "It is not like we had to fight our way back like we have in the last two matches. We set the tone early, which was huge for us."
The Flashes jumped on Perkins (18-7) early and often in the first game. Wiers had three kills as Willard lead 6-1 early.
The onslaught by the Flashes never let up, as an ace from Wiers, coupled with a kill from Cassidy Crawford extended the lead to 15-6. Crawford added two more kills and Chloe Wiers put down a kill to give Willard the early lead.
The Pirates responded in Game 2, but not before the Flashes sprinted out to a 6-0 lead — including four more kills by Wiers. Perkins slowly chipped away at the Willard lead and tied the game when Madison Booth smacked a kill to make it 14-14.
The Pirates took their first lead later after a kill from Elizabeth Zeigler. Crawford added a kill to tie it at 20, but Perkins scored the last five points of the game to tie the match.
"Perkins swung at us," Bond said. "It seemed like we could not get the ball in system enough in Game 2. They took control when they swung at us."
In a crucial Game 3, it was Willard that again jumped out to a comfortable lead. This time it was 9-3 after two Perkins errors and a kill from Lydia Wiers.
A service error by the Pirates pushed the Willard lead to 17-11, but Perkins had yet another run in it. This time it was four straight points, capped by consecutive kills by Zeigler to get the Pirates within two. But, that was the closest Perkins got as Lydia Wiers served up an ace and back-to-back kills by Crawford gave Willard the lead.
"We definitely came out a little rough," Perkins coach Heath Hamilton said. "Each of the first three games we came out and got down big early. Playing out of a hole against a good team is tough."
The Flashes led Game 4 from start to finish, but not without some difficulty. A four-hit error on the Pirates gave Willard a 9-5 lead and later, a kill from the Flashes extended the lead to 19-12.
Consecutive kills again from Crawford extended the lead to 24-17, but Perkins was not finished. The Pirates ran off the next six points including three straight kills from Riley Knupke to cut the lead to a point. However, a serving error from Dessa Daubert gave Willard the win.
"Our block was keyed in tonight," Bond said. "When we played them the first time, we were playing a defense that had one block. Tonight, the double block made a huge difference."
Crawford tallied 20 kills while Chloe Wiers had seven kills and two blocks. Alyse Cok added three kills.
"Getting to the regionals has been our goal since Day 1," Bond said. "It sounds sweet to hear that. To finally get there gives you a sigh of relief."
Knupke led Perkins with 17 digs and 14 kills while Mollie McVeigh had 14 assists and seven kills. Rachael Wenzinger added 10 kills and Olivia Weatherly tallied 13 assists.