By Rob Kiser
The Piqua volleyball team kept the championship hardware at home Saturday, defeating Graham 26-24, 25-21 in the championship match.
“The girls played really well,” Piqua coach Kaila Cook said. “We just kept getting better every match. Give Graham credit. They are a good team and had some strong hitters. I thought we did a pretty good job on defense.”
Piqua played from behind much of both sets, but won the points that counted.
“That has been a problem for us in the past,” Piqua coach Kaila Cook said. “So, that was good to see. We really didn’t give up a big run of points. I think we got down by as much as six in the first set. That was impressive the way we were able to come back in the first set. I know Haley Michael had a big block and kill when we came back.”
The Lady Indians were actually trailing 24-22, before scoring four straight points to win the set.
At 24-24, Lauren Williams served an ace and on her next serve, Piqua won it when Graham did not return the ball over the net.
“To serve an ace on game point, that is huge,” Cook said. “Then, she got the next serve in and they didn’t return it. That was big to get that first game.”
Piqua was down as much as 15-9 in the second set.
“We never panicked,” Cook said. “We just kept battling.”
Piqua was still trailing 16-12, when Ashley Ho served three straight points, including a kill by Kyla Blankenship.
Ashley Brading had a kill for sideout t0 get Piqua within 18-16.
Then, Carly Brown served five straight points — including an ace, three Graham hitting errors and a net foul — to give Piqua a 21-18 lead.
Graham responded with two points to close the deficit to 21-20 and Cook called timeout.
“We are a young team,” she said. “I wanted to call the timeout while we still had the lead.”
Brading had another kill to make it 22-20.
The lead went to 24-20 with two Graham hitting errors on Blankenship’s serve.
Mikayla Schaffner finished it at 24-21 when she pushed the ball down the line and Graham was unable to return it.
“I thought we had some good hits down the line at the end,” Cook said. “I know Graham made a few mistakes. We always play to win the point, but if the other team helps us, we will take it.”
Blankenship led Piqua with five kills, while Brading added four.
Kelsey Magoteaux had six digs, while Cassidy Sullenberger dished out 19 assists and Brown served four aces.
Piqua had opened the tournament with a 25-11, 26-24 win over Emmanuel Christian, before defeating Bellefontaine 25-9, 25-14 in the semifinals.
“Emmanuel Christian had a girl hitting the ball down the line that we had a little trouble with,” Cook said. “We just made some mistakes in the second set, but were able to win it. I thought we played pretty well against Bellefontaine.”
Against Emmanuel Christian, Ashley Ho had five kills and two blocks, while Brading and Blankenship both added five kills.
Sullenberger dished out 16 assists and Williams had three aces.
Against Bellefontaine, Blankenship had five kills and Brading added four. Ho had two blocks, Brown served four aces and Magoteaux had five digs.
Piqua, 9-6, will play at Troy Tuesday in GWOC North action.
The Lady Trojans are 16-0 and Piqua needs a win to earn a three-way share of the conference title — and have something else to celebrate.
Rob Kiser is Sports Editor of the Piqua Daily Call and can be reached at (937) 451-3334.