By Jim Cox
DHI Correspondent
VAN WERT - Ottawa-Glandorf came into Thursday night's volleyball match with the Western Buckeye League championship safely sewed up at 8-0.
Host Van Wert was tied for second (with Celina and Defiance) at 6-2, and the Cougars gave the Titans a real test before falling 25-18, 25-18, 25-15. O-G finishes the WBL season at 9-0 and is 16-5 overall with one match (Saturday with Columbus Grove) remaining. Van Wert is 6-3 and 12-8 with a Saturday match remaining with Lincolnview.

Neither team had much success scoring on its offense, but the defenses were magnificent, resulting in a slew of long, exciting rallies.

The first set was close until the end, with five lead changes before the visitors took their final lead at 17-16. After that, led by the hitting of Niki Ellerbrock, Stacy Walker, and Kayla Eastman, O-G went on a decisive run to end it at 25-18.

The second set was similarly close, providing Van Wert with its best chance for a win. The Cougs led by as many as four (12-8, 13-9, 15-11), but the Titans' offense went on a roll led by Ellerbrock to take an 18-17 lead. At that point, Van Wert committed a series of errors, allowing O-G to escape with another 25-18 win.

The home team led early in the third set (1-0, 2-1, 3-2, 4-3, 5-4), but the Titans tied it at 5-5 on a stuff block by Eastman. O-G never trailed after that, although the Cougs stayed within striking distance until it was 17-14. At that point, Van Wert committed seven errors in a row to let it get away.

O-G coach Ann Ellerbrock had high praise for the Van Wert defense. "I was happy that we were able to keep the ball in play -- they have such great defense," said Ellerbrock. "She (Van Wert coach Vicki Smith) had her girls positioned in exactly the right spots, so I was happy we were able to keep running, keep running, keep running until, hopefully, they made a mistake. We ran our typical offense, but with other teams we played, those are usually scoring opportunities for us -- not against Van Wert, though."

"We played really strong defense tonight," said Van Wert coach Smith. "We just didn't play our game in the hitting end of it. Great defense, but we really need to attack the ball better. I think the girls realized that they are good, and they can win. I think it took tonight to see this team (O-G) to see that they (the Cougars) are a good team. We were back and forth, and we were aggressive with them."

Walker, Ellerbrock, and Kristi Jerwers led O-G in kills with 14, 10, and nine. Kelsey Baldwin and Jerwers had 29 and 26 digs, respectively. Kelley Selhorst had 38 assists.

Kills were scattered among several Van Wert players -- led by Taylor Doidge and Alexa Dunlap with four each. Other Cougar stat leaders were Amanda Coplin (nine assists), and Dunlap (22 digs).

The undefeated (20-0) Titan jayvee team won in two sets, 25-7, 27-25, although the surprising Cougars (7-11) had a set point at 25-24 in the second set. O-G won the freshman game in three sets.