Otsego junior Faith Keifer (4) sets the ball during the second set of a Division III sectional semifinal match against Elida on October18, 2022 at Otsego High School in Tontogany, Ohio. Otsego defeated Elida in four sets (28-26, 23-25, 25-23, 25-17). (Photo by Scott W. Grau/Sentinel-Tribune)

TONTOGANY — Despite being the better seed, Otsego had to take Elida seriously in the Division II volleyball tournament opener Tuesday on the Knights’ floor. The Bulldogs were no pushover.

Otsego 5-foot-8 junior pin (hitter) and defensive specialist Emily Genson had 20 kills and five aces to lead the Knights to a 28-26, 23-25, 25-23, 25-17 win over the Bulldogs.

“She was phenomenal tonight,” Otsego coach Gabby Smith said. “She has been dealing with an injury, but she’s coming back, and she’s been unstoppable.

“It was hard for them to stop her tonight, so we just kept going to her. She is our high hand.”

Genson credited her two setters, junior Faith Keifer and senior Kylee Baranski.

“I love both of my setters. They are both real passionate about volleyball and are both going to go real far, and they are amazing,” Genson said.

PHOTOS: Otsego vs Elida, Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2022

“It takes a lot of practice to get that setter-hitter connection, and in this game, it really clicked for sure,” Genson continued. “There are some games where it doesn’t really click.”

The Knights were the No. 5 seed in the Bluffton district, while Elida was the No. 9 seed, but Smith was not taking the Bulldogs for granted.

“I think our biggest concern was consistency — taking care of our side of the net, which I think we lacked at first, but I think we came back, and we did well,” Smith said.

“We finished it off in four, so I’m proud of what we did and how far we came.”

Elida led most of the first set, and had set point at 24-22, but the Knights scored six of the next seven points on two kills by opposite hitter Kendall St. John, one kill by Genson, and an ace Baranski.

It was a kill by Keifer that scored the winning point in the first set. However, in set two the Bulldogs led the entire way to even the score 1-1.

A tight back-and-forth third set ended with Genson getting kills on Otsego’s final two points to put the set away, and the final set saw the Knights cruise to an eight-point win.

Otsego junior middle blocker Kora Rollins had 14 kills and four aces, St. John had eight kills and two blocks, and Keifer and senior Emma DiFeterici had seven kills apiece.

Otsego 6-3 middle blocker Calista Wilkins had three kills and five blocks and Baranski had two kills and five aces.

Elida, which bows out at 9-14, was led by middle hitter Addyson Freeman, who had 14 kills, three blocks and three aces.

Now that Otsego (12-11) has defeated one Western Buckeye League member, they get to take on another WBL team in No. 3 seed St. Marys at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday at Celina High School.

It’s safe to say, according to Genson, that teams in the WBL play a different style of volleyball than what she is used to in the Northern Buckeye Conference.

“I have no idea what to expect. Some of our league games are a lot different than this,” Genson said.

Thursday’s winner advances to the district semifinals to take on the Celina-Wauseon winner at 6 p.m. on Oct. 25 at Bluffton University’s Sommer Center.