25-21, 25-19 and 15-10 in a Division II volleyball district final at Chillicothe Southeastern High School.
CHILLICOTHE – It's hard to smile when you're facing elimination in the Southeast District Division II volleyball championship game.
But once Lauren White and her fellow Chillicothe Unioto High School teammates began to smile, everything started to click.
The Lady Shermans stormed back from a two-game deficit Saturday to win a classic match over the Circleville Lady Tigers, 18-25, 16-25, 25-21, 25-19 and 15-10, at Chillicothe Southeastern High School.
“Everyone was pretty mad (about the deficit),” White said. “We always try to keep positive energy so we tried to cut it out.
” … Our coach (Aaron Ridenour) told us to smile and we started to.”
The Unioto comeback was paced by Katelyn Jinks contributing a monster game of 16 kills and 30 digs. Setter Jodi Finchum had 35 assists and White chipped in 14 kills.
“After the second game we picked it up,” Finchum said. “We really pulled together and played as a team.”
Unioto (24-2) advances to the Division II regional semifinal at Wilmington High School Thursday to face Bellbrook.
Momentum started to turn at the end of the third game. With the two teams tied 19-19, Unioto went on a small but significant 4-1 run to open up enough room for a 25-21 game win.
“The third game we were with them,” Circleville coach Crystal Affolter said. “Losing that game set my girls back a little bit and I don't think we ever regrouped after that.”
Trailing Circleville (22-4) 9-6 in the fourth game, the Lady Shermans went on an 8-2 run to claim a 14-11 lead. Liz Tuttle served five straight points while White mixed in a pair of kills.
Circleville and Unioto continued to fight for points in the middle of the fourth game.
Leading 17-16, the Lady Shermans went on a 6-1 run to take control of the game. Jinks finished off another Unioto win with a spike to tie the match at 2-2.
The Lady Shermans came out with fire in the fifth game, going on a 12-4 run to ignite its fans. Finchum served four straight points, including an ace, and Unioto went to Kristin Vranicar and Jinks for kill work.
“We were just so out of sync in the first couple games,” Ridenour said. “Then, we started to get the ball to our hitters and our hitters got hot. We were spreading it around and getting it to different ones, and that was important too. We also picked it up defensively.”
Facing a 14-6 match point, Circleville tried to battle back with Amanda Wade putting down a kill and getting a block, but the Unioto lead proved to be too big to overcome.
Circleville, which won its first Mid-State League Buckeye Division championship earlier this month, finished as district runner-up for the second straight year. The Lady Tigers lost in five games to Washington Court House last year.
Watching the first two games of the match, it seemed like Circleville would be getting gold, signifying a district championship.
CHS went on a 6-1 run in the middle of the opening game, using a kill and ace from Wade and strong hitting from Kristen Walters to open up a 15-7 lead. Circleville eventually earned the 25-18 win.
“The first two games we showed them the type of team we were,” Affolter said. “We played with intensity and were all over the floor.
In the second game, Circleville broke a 12-12 tie with a big 13-4 run. Jessica Willis served two aces, Kara Knecht dumped a pair of balls between three Unioto defenders and Casse Mogan finished the run with a hard slam to put the Lady Tigers ahead 2-0 in the match.
“Circleville came out strong against us,” Ridenour said. “They had a very good game plan and they took us out of our game completely there in the first two games. After game two, we just said 'Hey, you know, you have to win one game and have the confidence to know you can win one.'”
Mogan finished with 26 kills, 15 points and 15 digs for the Lady Tigers. Walters gathered 17 points and 12 kills, and Knecht had 20 points, 13 digs and 37 assists.