When Ohio’s high school volleyball fans eye the district tournament bracket for next week’s action, they are going to look at several recognizable participants. Many of the perennial powers seemed locked and loaded once again for a tournament run to the sweet 16 and beyond.
Unfortunately for the Division II southeast volleyball programs, a district championship seems a little tougher to come by later this month. Even the top seeded division II teams were forced to win two games and some lower seeded teams trying to make a special tournament run were forced to win three just to advance to the district tournament.
Chillicothe Unioto earned a top-seed in the D-II south bracket due to its near perfect season. The Lady Shermans only two hiccups came against Scioto Valley Conference champion Frankfort Adena, and with Adena entering the tournament as a D-III school, many felt Unioto was a heavy favorite to advance to the regional tournament. So far, so good for Unioto as the top-seeded Shermans took advantage of their home court in sectional play. Unioto first defeated neighboring rival Chillicothe (the eight-seeded Lady Cavaliers advanced in round one with a straight set win over Waverly 27-25, 25-18, 28-26) in straight sets 25-17, 25-13, 25-16 on Wednesday before capturing the title Saturday by defeating five-seed Jackson 25-15, 25-21, 25-8.
The top-half of the north side saw top-seeded Circleville make quick work of Fairfield Union on Wednesday, before welcoming Sheridan – who advanced with a straight set win over New Lexington – for Saturday’s sectional final. Circleville cruised to the title winning 25-10, 25-18, 25-11 and secured a spot in next week’s district tournament.
Entering the postseason, Circleville was most likely to see Gallia Academy; however, the bottom half of the south bracket produced the first upset of the sectional tournament. After seven-seed Athens beat Marietta in the play-in game, Athens shocked the two-seed winning in four sets 28-26, 20-25, 25-17, 25-13. This opened the door for three-seed Warren, and after Warren made quick work of McArthur Vinton County in the semifinals, Warren eliminated Athens to capture the sectional title. Warren advances to play Circleville at Southeastern High School in Wednesday second match.
Unioto was waiting for its district opponent out of the other half of the north bracket and this sectional tournament produced possibly the most exciting action. Two-seeded Miami Trace defeated Greenfield McClain in straight sets and three-seeded Washington Court House got by Hillsboro in four to setup a final against the two Fayette County rivals. Four sets proved to be not enough to settle the championship so the two went to a fifth and deciding game with Court House winning 17-15 to advance. Wednesday’s action at Southeastern will start at 6 p.m. with the Unioto/Court House match with Warren/Circleville to follow. The winners will then return to Southeastern on Saturday at 3 p.m. for the district championship.
In D-III, top-seeded Adena had little problems in Saturday’s final with Bainbridge Paint Valley. The two-shade blue entered the championship contest winning every home game they have played in more than a decade and Saturday was no different winning in straight sets 25-14, 25-3, 25-23 to capture its 19th straight sectional title. The Lady Warriors enter the postseason the Scioto Valley Conference champion and are looking for a return trip to the final four; however, this year being a member of the division III tournament with last year’s state trip coming in D-IV.
Advancing to Athens High School with Adena (west winner) for next week’s district tournament are fellow one-seeds Wheelersburg (south), and Albany Alexander (North). The Lady Pirates of Wheelersburg defeated Portsmouth to capture the sectional title and the Lady Spartans of Alexander defeated Zane Trace to advance. The best-of-the-rest that hope to have a say in knocking off one of the top three seeds is headed by a pair of Scioto Valley Conference schools in Huntington and Williamsport Westfall. Huntington made quick work of Peebles to capture the sectional crown on Saturday and Westfall was slow getting started but knocked off North Adams in four behind 24 kills from three-time SVC player of the year in Cassie Sowers. Other champions that head to Athens include Minford, South Point, River Valley, Nelsonville-York, Trimble, West Union, and Ironton.
“We were a little slow getting started today (Saturday),” said Westfall coach Lori Merriman. “You give North Adams credit because they were ready to play, but we were very sluggish in game one. Our passing was not to the target, and we never put together any sort of attack. Later in the match, we sharpened up and we were fine. The girls are getting comfortable with some of the changes that our injuries forced us to make in our rotation, and I feel we are starting to develop more balance in our offense.”
“Our offensive attack was really clicking today (Saturday),” said Huntington coach Tina Magill. “We had four girls with double figures in kills, and our offense really kept Peebles off balance and made it difficult to return any type of attack at us.”
The southeast district does catch one break in this year’s postseason. Due to the abundance of participating schools, the D-3 programs are competing for three spots in the regional tournament instead of the normal two. This limits the amount of how much these teams will have to eliminate one another. In fact, the seeding worked out to where Adena, Alexander, Wheelersburg, Westfall, and Huntington will not have to meet until the district final with a trio of teams advancing to the sweet-sixteen.
With Adena no longer lurking in D-IV, it made for a wide-open bracket in this year’s sectional tournament. Nineteen teams entered the southeast sectional play, but only eight would be crowned sectional champions. One seeds Eastern Reedsville and Portsmouth Clay held serve with easy title victories over Hemlock Miller and Leesburg Fairfield respectively. Also advancing with a sectional championship was Mowerystown Whiteoak, Glenwood New Boston, Eastern Beaver, Symmes Valley, South Webster, and Lucasville Valley.
The D-IV districts are held at Wellston High School. Wednesday at 6 p.m. Eastern Reedsville faces Whiteoak with New Boston and Eastern Beaver to follow. Thursday, Clay and Symmes Valley get started at 6 p.m. with South Webster and Lucasville Valley to follow. The winners will play for a district championship on Saturday afternoon with Wednesday’s winners playing at 4 p.m. and Thursday’s winners to follow in the second match.