Madison Williams of Lincolnview swings at the ball against Crestview on Thursday night. (DHI Media/Chris Howell)
Madison Williams of Lincolnview swings at the ball against Crestview on Thursday night. (DHI Media/Chris Howell)

MIDDLE POINT — The Lady Lancers wrapped up their second straight outright NWC Championship after beating Crestview in four sets on Thursday.

"I couldn't be prouder of these girls," said Lincolnview Head Coach JaNahn Evans of her team. "We had a goal in mind from the beginning of the season to go and get this title, and it feels great to accomplish that."

Lincolnview ran the table against NWC opponents, playing to a perfect 8-0 record to capture the conference crown.

As for the match, it was well worth the price of admission with each set coming down to the wire as they finished with scores of 26-28, 26-24, 25-21, and 25-22.

The energy was high, and the intensity was evident from the first point of the game to the last.

In the first set, it took all the way until point 28 to determine a winner in a set that was dominated on two sides by freshman Cali Gregory for Crestview, and junior Kendall Bollenbacher for Lincolnview.

The two underclassmen put their respective teams on their back as the momentum swung from one team to the other in a set that featured 10 ties.

Bollenbacher had three kills on the way to 14-13 Lincolnview lead midway through the set.

Crestview went on to score three straight from there, using a marathon volley and a behind the head tip from Cali Gregory to take a 16-14 lead.

The Lady Lancers answered with three points of their own, two on back-to-back Bollenbacher aces to regain the advantage.

In addition to those two aces, Bollenbacher, who is Lincolnview's leading hitter on the season, finished the night with 16 kills, 21 digs, and one block

Ties on the scoreboard followed at points 23, 24, 25, and 26 in the seesaw battle before it finally went in favor of the visitors.

The Lady Knights picked up the set-clinching 28th point on another deceptive tip by Cali Gregory.

Gregory, Crestview's Swiss army knife, finished the game with 38 assists, 10 kills, and three aces on 18/19 serves.

Although the roster consists of five seniors, the Lady Knights are a young team in terms of varsity experience, and that includes their top hitter and their leader in assists.

"We count on our young players for so much with Laci (McCoy) as our leading hitter and Cali (Gregory) running our offense," said Crestview Head Coach Tammy Gregory of her young team. "I think they've stepped up for us all season, and this was definitely a valuable learning experience for them."

Those players, along with freshman Myia Etzler who finished with 12 kills in the contest led Crestview to the opening set win.

In the second set, the more experienced team struck back as Lincolnview willed their way to a second set victory that wasn't determined until the 26th point.

With the game tied at 12, the Lady Lancers took advantage of consecutive balls in the net by Laci McCoy to grab a 14-12 lead.

That advantage ballooned to five on an ace by Madison Williams to make the game 19-14, but Crestview refused to go away as they came back to tie the game at 21, 22, 23, and at point 24 when McCoy redeemed herself from mistakes earlier in the set with a kill.

It wouldn't be enough, however, as the next two points went to Lincolnview on a double-hit and a kill by Williams to end the set at 26-24.

Williams put together another impressive stat-line with 28 digs, 13 kills, and two aces.

The third set turned out to be nothing but dominance by the home team.

After an early 3-3 tie, Lincolnview went on an 11-1 run headlined by a few kills from Kendall Klausing to open up a 14-4 lead.

Klausing, who has played a bigger role in the last week partly due to the absence of McKayla Blankemeyer and Breck Evans, had one of her biggest games of the season, including a large contribution in the game's decisive third set.

"Kendall's a competitor, and she came up big tonight," said Evans. "She really started to read the court and swing away while stepping into a bigger role."

Klausing finished third to Bollenbacher and Williams on the night in kills with 11.

The Lady Knights did everything they possibly could to get back in the game as they used three straight kills from McCoy (20 total kills in the game) to close the gap to 24-21, but Lincolnview wrapped it up with a Bollenbacher kill on the next possession.

"We realized what our motivation was in that third set," said Evans. "We needed to do the little things, and I feel like once everybody stepped up to get those done, then we took control of the game."

Fatigue appeared to set in for Crestview in the late stages of the game as they are coming off of two straight five-set games on Monday and Tuesday, but they didn't make anything easy on Lincolnview in the fourth and final set.

"We knew Crestview was going to respond," said Evans. "When you face-off with a rival school like this, everyone is going to play their best."

That was indeed the case in set four when the score was tied at 16. Crestview even took a three point lead on three consecutive kills by Myia Etzler, who ended the game second to McCoy in kills with 12.

Following a timeout, Lincolnview regained their composure and Brianna Ebel tied the game up on a tip.

The Lady Lancers senior setter racked up 43 assists, 17 digs, three kills, and two blocks in another phenomenal performance.

Lincolnview's last two points of the night came on kills by Bollenbacher, and a celebration for the NWC champs ensued on the court.

For the second straight year, the Lady Lancers clinched the conference against Crestview, who could have received a share of the championship had they pulled off the upset.

On this night, however, it just wasn't meant to be for the Lady Knights.

"We talk a lot about consistency, and that's something we have to be better at," said Gregory. "Overall, I'm pleased with the effort that the girls brought tonight. That was a great match to prepare us for the tournament run."

Crestview finishes the regular season with a record of 14-7 overall and 6-2 in the NWC. They will begin tournament action on Tuesday evening at home against Wayne Trace.

As for Lincolnview (18-2, 8-0 in the NWC), they'll play one more regular season game on Saturday at home against Miller City.

Next week in tournament play, the Lancers will face-off against St. John's on Thursday at Fort Recovery High School after receiving a first round bye.