GARDNER — The defensive-minded Woodland Lady Warriors took all the hard hits sectional No. 1 seed Cissna Park could throw at them early Tuesday evening and kept coming back for more.
Eventually, however, the top-seeded Timberwolves wore down even the young and scrappy Lady Warriors, with Cissna Park advancing to the title game here at the Gardner-South Wilmington Class 1A Regional and ending Woodland's season, 25-12, 25-13, in a match where the score doesn't accurately convey the competitiveness of almost every individual rally, especially early.
"Oh no, heck no," said first-year Lady Warriors coach Ginger Walter. "Our girls came out and they kept up with (Cissna Park) in the first set. I was so proud of them.
"We were so proud of our effort. There was no crying (after the match), there was no shame, because that team was tough, and our girls kept up with them pretty well ... I know the score doesn't look that good, but seeing what (Cissna Park) was made of and what they had to throw at us, I was proud of our girls."
Two sets played out mostly the same, although it was in the opening set in which the Lady Warriors scored one fewer point that they actually looked more impressive. Dig after dig, long rally after long rally led WHS to tally a whopping 34 digs as a team in the opening set alone, led by libero Kaitlyn Walter's 16, but lacking the offensive firepower of the Timberwolves, the vast majority of those long, long rallies nonetheless eventually ended up as Cissna Park points on the scoreboard.
"We were keeping up with them pretty good, but no, we don't have (the offensive power to win a lot of those points) because we have such a young team," Coach Walter said. "We're more freshmen and sophomores — and that's good news, that we have that talent coming back — but we have to get ready to be that kind of team taking those hard swings to win those points.
"Other than Bella (Estes, the Warriors' standout senior middle hitter), we don't have that offensive firepower right now."
Estes finished her Lady Warriors career by putting down 62.5 percent of her team's kills Tuesday, finishing with 10 of Woodland's 16 kills and both of the Lady Warriors' stuff blocks. Setters Taylee Keen (eight assists) and Ally Ruff (six assists) contributed to most of those, but it was in the defensive back row — led by Kaitlyn Walter's 26 digs on the night, six apiece from both Ruff and Jasmine Easton, and five from Estes — where Woodland really shined both on the statsheet and the court, aided by at-the-net deflections from middles Estes and Sydnee Plesko.
High-leaping Gabby Wessels slammed down nine kills and Erica Walder six to lead the Timberwolves attack.
Woodland finishes the season 12-14, while Cissna Park (29-4) advances on to Thursday's title match against Gardner-South Wilmington (17-10-1).
"It was one of those where you come out and play, and I thought (Woodland) did a great job getting some touches at the net that I didn't think they were going to be able to get, and they were digging up everything," said Cissna Park coach Josh Landon.
"We had hitters coming out saying, 'Well, what's open? I'm getting great swings, but it's right at people,' but we just wanted to stay with our gameplan ... and eventually it worked out for us."