FORT WAYNE — Angola battled during the first two sets, but ran out of gas during the third set in a 3-0 loss to host Class 3A No. 3 Bishop Dwenger in the Class 3A sectional championship match Saturday night.
The Saints (29-2) won 25-22, 25-21, 25-11.
“Dwenger is a fine team. They have probably the best player in the state in (Eva) Hudson. The rest is a very nice team. I thought we had a very nice day,” Angola coach Lloy Ball said. “No one picked us to beat Concordia, especially in three. It’s a tough task to come back and play another ranked team. I thought the first two sets were very competitive. Our inexperience, probably losing those 11 seniors (from last year’s team) showed at the end of each set.”
The Hornets (20-9) stayed within four points of the Saints in the first two sets, but quickly fell behind 11-1 in the third set.
“When you get to that third set, it’s a long trail to get to that fifth set, and obviously we didn’t play as well,” Ball said.
Ball called Hudson the best player in the state, but he thought freshman Morgan Gaerte was the best player on the court on Saturday night.
“She’s only going to get better the next three years. She ran out of gas a little bit tonight,” Ball said.
Gaerte finished with a team-high 16 kills, only two in the final set.
Gaerte gave Angola an early 5-3 lead with a kill in the first set, then she scored four more later in the set to make it 15-14. During Gaerte’s four kills, Mak Thompson smacked an ace.
Dwenger firmly took a hold of the lead after a pair of kills from Kristin Bobay and one from Hudson that made it 20-17.
Another Gaerte kill cut the lead back to one, 23-22, but Hudson drilled her sixth kill of the set followed by an error by the Hornets that gave the Saints the first set. Hudson, a Notre Dame commit, ended up with a match-high 21 kills.
Brea Harris gave Angola an early 2-0 lead in the second set with a kill and an ace. She finished the match with seven kills.
Gaerte pushed the lead to three moments later with two kills and a block. An ace from Teagan Mattox made it 9-7 in favor of the Hornets.
Then, a few errors by Angola allowed Bishop Dwenger to retake the lead and back-to-back kills from Hudson made it 17-14. She powered a couple more to extend the lead to 20-16.
Harris cut the lead down to three, 24-21, with two straight kills. But another error by the Hornets gave the second set to the Saints.
More errors by Angola and several kills by Hudson quickly put the hosts on top in the third set. After the lead reached double digits, it hovered around eight or nine points for a handful of points. But Bishop Dwenger and Hudson put their foot on the gas to put the match away.
After losing 11 seniors off the 2019 team, the Hornets had to rebuild, but had talent waiting for their time. That talent was also young and inexperienced. The underclassmen got their experience this season and turned early season losses to teams like Garrett and Concordia into wins in the postseason.
“Just getting battle-tested. One thing that’s great about our athletic director (Steve Lantz) is he allows me to schedule out of conference,” Ball said. “It’s not a slight on the NECC (Northeast Corner Conference), but many years it’s not the most competitive.”
Ball mentioned playing teams like Homestead, Carroll, Bishop Dwenger and Leo gets his team ready for matches like they had on Saturday against the Saints. Also, beating Garrett and Fairfield last weekend in the conference tournament prepared the Hornets for sectional play.
“We peaked at the right time,” Ball said.