Otsego volleyball wins district title

Otsego vs Lakota
regional volleyball final 10/31/09. Ashley Holzwart (center) celebrates with her team. (Photo: Aaron

PERRYSBURG — Otsego’s volleyball team was seriously challenged Saturday night.
But every time the Knights were threatened, they responded with a series of clutch plays offensively and
They played well overall to hold off Lakota for a 25-16, 25-21, 25-22 win in the championship match of
the Division III district volleyball tournament at Perrysburg High School.
The Knights — who lost in the district final last season — will face second-ranked Archbold (26-0
overall) Wednesday night at 6 in the regional semifinals at Liberty-Benton High School. The win was the
seventh straight for Otsego (22-3).
Lakota, playing in the district final for the first time in school history, finished 20-5.
“We all wanted this after last year and everyone pushed even more to make it happen,” said Chelsea
Bollenbacher, one of seven returning letter winners for the Knights.
Of those seven, five are seniors — fourth-year players Baley Bernthisel, Autumn Berry and Ashley
Holzwart; third-year player Katelyn Downing; and two-year contributor Bollenbacher.
All five played well against Lakota, including Holzwart, who returned after a two-game absence because of
a sprained ankle. Junior Karessia Rowell and sophomore Hannah Greulich, who are in their second season,
had solid games.
The Knights haven’t lost since a 25-21, 26-24 defeat at Archbold Oct. 3.
“This means a lot, especially to the seniors because this is our last chance to show we have what it
takes,” Bollenbacher said. “We’ve been talking about it, being so close last year and the opportunity to
do it again and, hopefully, take it even higher. We still have more to go this season.”
Bollenbacher and Bernthisel controlled the net, Berry’s sets were consistently good, and Downing and
Holzwart seemingly dug up every spike and every serve — especially when it mattered.
“We’re a pressure team,” Bollenbacher said. “We like to play under pressure. We work well together and we
have good chemistry. We know how to win and what it takes to do that.”
The Knights, after trailing 10-8 in Game 1, scored the final nine points to pull away from a 16-16 tie.
Bernthisel had a kill and two aces during the run, while Holzwart and Greulich also had kills.
Lakota reduced a 10-2 deficit to just 21-19 and 22-20 in Game 2, but an Otsego block and a Bollenbacher
kill made it 24-20. Bollenbacher later ended the game with a kill.
The Raiders held a 15-14 lead in Game 3 and the match was tied four times after that, the final tie
coming at 19.
After an Otsego timeout, two Bollenbacher kills, a Bollenbacher block and an attack error by the Raiders
extended Otsego’s lead to 23-19. Bollenbacher later ended the match with a kill.
“They sure know how to push a lead,” Lakota coach Brent Newell said. “They score five, six, seven points
at a time, instead the one, two, three that we’d like. Or we’d make a mistake and it’s just not one, two
or three, its five six or seven. We had a hard time making a play we needed to make it."
Bollenbacher finished with 15 kills, while Bernthisel added 10 kills and four blocks, Berry passed out 31
assists and Downing totaled 24 digs.
Otsego attacked from the left, middle and right, and from the front and the back. The 6-foot-2
Bollenbacher and Bernthisel are the team’s big hitters, but all of the Knights are capable of getting
good swings.
The Knights also defended and blocked well in the match. The only negative for Otsego was eight service
The district championship was Otsego’s first since 1992, the year it won the state title.
“Our players are so talented we can change on a dime,” said Otsego coach Cheryl Jones, who is in her 26th
season. “They’re all so versatile and that allows us to do different things. It’s an extremely talented
team. We’ve changed our lineup quite a few times this season because the players are able to do
different things.”
Otsego’s defense was effective against Lakota hitting standouts Amy Gosche and Jessica Hoffman, who
combined for 33 kills in the team’s district semifinal win over Lake. They each had nine kills against
Otsego. The Knights worked extensively in practice the last two days defending against Gosche and
“Our defense was very good,” Jones said.
The 6-foot Gosche also had 14 digs and two blocks, while Hannah Podach had 13 digs and two aces. Emily
Hagen had 12 assists and Olivia Frantz had nine assists.