WASHINGTON TOWNSHIP | It hasn't been an easy season for Morgan Township and coach Matt Bien.
But the Cherokees' struggles were all forgotten in first round of the Porter County Conference tournament Thursday, as Morgan upset Hanover Central 18-25, 25-20, 25-23, 25-13.
"I couldn't be prouder of them," Cherokees coach Matt Bien said. "We've had a really tough season. It was thrilling to see our young team come of age. It's nice to see them put together a win against one of the better teams in our conference."
The Cherokees (5-19) lost the first game after committing seven serving errors.
"I tried to stay positive with them," Bien said. "We played pretty well in the first game. I felt like if we could clean the service errors up and clean up our play that, we could play with (Hanover Central). And it worked out."
Game 2 saw no lead larger than three points. Hanover Central took an 18-17 lead off a Sami Brown kill, but the Cherokees went on a 8-2 run to win after a Hannah Murphy and Courtney Maxwell block.
"We were able to mix up our offense a little bit. Our girls stayed aggressive, and that's what we've been preaching to them all year long," Bien said. "And that's us. This past season we've won the first game, and then shut down in those last three, but this time they stuck with the plan."
The Wildcats had a 23-20 lead in Game 3, but the Cherokees ran off the next five points to win, Sammy Meschede delivering the clinching kill.
"We had to overcome a wall all season, and tonight we broke down that wall," said Meschede, who had a team-high 11 kills.
Game 4 saw Morgan jump out 10-5 after two aces by Trina Coleman. The Wildcats were unable to close the gap, and the Cherokees went on another 5-0 run to close it out.
"It's the best I've seen our team play together," Kaley Lauder said. "I think this win shows that we can do anything in this tournament, that we're not the team just to blow off anymore, that's we're a competition."
Lauder was 40-47 setting and had 18 assists.
"It's probably one of the better matches Kaley has had as well, and she's only been a setter since June so she's come a long way in a short period of time," Bien said.
Hanover Central (19-8) was led by Kayla Huppenthal with six kills. Savanna Zakman added five.
"We struggled with our passing. If we don't have our passing, we don't have the options to run our systems. And we couldn't pull it together," Hanover coach Shelley Evers said. "But you can't say enough about Morgan. They came out and they wanted it. They played phenomenal."
In the first match, Boone Grove defeated Hebron, 25-15, 25-20, 17-25, 25-11. Boone led 11-9 in the first set, and went on a 7-0 run to take an 18-9 lead, ending it on a Meghan Bender kill.
The second game had Boone Grove take an early 9-5 lead, but the Hawks kept the game close. Hebron got within 19-17 after one of Lauren Carlson's nine kills, but no closer.
The Hawks came out strong in the third game, taking a 6-2 lead after a Katie Clemens kill. They would go on a 5-0 run to take a 17-10 lead.
"The third game, I thought we lost our focus a little bit," Boone coach Linda Eleftheri said. "The fourth game, we had to come out and be very offensive and attack. Defensively, we did a good job at getting the ball to our setters, and our setters did a good job moving the ball to all of our hitters."
Boone Grove went on a 10-1 run to start Game 4. Hebron was unable to get any offense going and the Wolves cruised to victory.
Lauren Alsop led the Hawks (11-13) with 10 kills and 20 digs.
Bender led the Wolves (13-12) with 11 kills, while Morgan Marshall added 10 kills and 22 digs. Emma Foster notched nine kills.