Nicole Sicking normally does her best work on the front line, but it was her late-match serving that helped Fairfield High School’s volleyball team close out Edgewood in their Division I sectional opener Tuesday evening at Lakota West.
The Indians senior middle blocker-outside hitter served eight straight points, including three consecutive aces and four overall, as they turned an 11-10 edge into a 19-10 lead on the way to winning the third game and advancing with a 25-8, 25-16, 25-15 victory over the Cougars.
“It was just energy,” Sicking said of her back-line effectiveness, which even Fairfield coach Jessica Smith admitted caught her by surprise. “You’ve got to keep it going.”
“That was huge,” Smith said. “We were stuck in a rut. That was a huge turn of events.”
Thirteenth-seeded Fairfield (15-7), which lost in the first round of last season’s tournament, is scheduled to play fifth-seeded Loveland (20-2) in the second round on Saturday at 1:30 p.m. at West. The Tigers are the Eastern Cincinnati Conference champions and tied with Centerville for 18th in the Ohio High School Volleyball Coaches Association poll. Loveland goes into the match riding a five-match winning streak and has lost only to second-ranked Mount Notre Dame and No. 3 Mother of Mercy.
The Indians, who finished last season 15-7 and have won four of their last five matches, lost to Loveland 25-17, 20-25, 25-10, 25-16 in the opening match of the season on Aug. 19 at Fairfield.
“Having played them is good for us,” Sicking said. “That gives us a little bit of an idea of what we need to do.”
Edgewood (11-12), the 24th seed, finishes the season with one more win than last year, extending a stretch of incremental improvements.
“Our setter is a freshman who shows a lot of promise,” coach Kevin Konz said, referring to Callie Hunt. “We’ve improved each of the last three years. Against Harrison in the opener, we were up 2-0, but we couldn’t seal the deal. The same with Ross. The girls are on the verge of turning it around and taking off.”
Junior middle blocker-outside hitter Trinity Miller led Fairfield with 10 kills, three more than Sicking. Junior setter Jessica Boland handed out a team-high 27 assists, while junior defensive specialist Samantha O’Shea came up with 19 digs.
Fairfield took command of the 15-minute first game, opening up leads of 9-2 and 13-3 before closing it out with a six-point run. The Indians had fewer extended runs in the second game and led 19-15 before scoring six of the last seven points.
Fairfield jumped out to leads of 6-0 and 7-1 in the third game before Edgewood started chipping away, setting up Sicking’s serving heroics.
“We controlled the ball with our offense,” Smith said. “We were definitely working on getting to their open spots. We were pushing the tempo. We’ve been on working on that. We’re a smaller team, so that’s what we have to do.”
The Cougars won two of their last three regular-season matches.
“We knew it would be an uphill battle,” Konz said. “Playing in the (Greater Miami Conference), they probably play a tougher schedule than we do in the (Southwest Ohio Conference).”