Saturday’s first title game was between Adena and Cheshire River Valley. Adena, the SVC regular season champion with a perfect 14-0 league mark, advanced to the final with a semifinal straight-set win over Minford. River Valley – the Ohio Valley Conference regular season champion – defeated fellow OVC member South Point to advance.
This championship battle was a one-sided affair as the Lady Warriors of Adena dominated River Valley in straight sets 25-8, 25-10, 25-1. Adena setter Megan Purdin had 22 assists in the quick, three-game match as she distributed the ball nicely to an array of Warrior hitters. Adena’s Ashley Jordan led the balanced attack for the two-shade blue with 12 kills and four blocks.
“Early in game one I felt like we were a little timid,” said Adena head coach Laura Smith who led her team to the Division IV final four last year before moving to the D-III tournament this season. “There were a couple situations where we did not communicate on a few balls, but overall I thought we got it going and played well.”
This may sound a bit picky coming from a coach that just won the district title in three games while giving up a grand total of 19 points, but it was obvious in listening to the legendary Adena coach speak of her next opponent that she knew her team must play well start to finish to be successful in the next round.
“They are a solid team,” said Smith of Adena’s regional semifinal opponent Tuscarawas Valley who won its district championship with a four set win over Lore City Buckeye Trail. “They have nice size in the middle, they have several seniors, and they play several people in their rotation. They have a nice team and we will have to play well to win.”
The Adena and Tusky Valley game will be Wednesday night at the Convo in Athens. These two rich-in-tradition programs will take the regional stage at 6:00 PM.
Game two had the SVC’s third-place team (the SVC runner-up was Chillicothe Unioto who overcame a two-game deficit against Circleville on Saturday at Southeastern High School in the D-II district championship to capture the district title in five-set thriller) in Westfall taking on Wheelersburg. Both teams made it through its semifinal matches with straight set wins with Westfall beating Glouster Trimble and Wheelersburg beating Nelsonville-York.
This see-saw match contained two fairly young teams, but in the end it was too much Cassie Sowers as Westfall won in four sets 25-12, 20-25, 25-19, 25-21. The All-Ohioan Sowers, who was recently named the SVC Player of the Year for the third straight season, set the tone early with 10 of her 27 kills in game one as Westfall advances to the regionals.
“Amy (Adams) and Nicole (Ratcliff) do a great job in the back row to allow Cassie (Sowers) and Suzy (Gantz) to do their thing at the net,” said Westfall head coach Lori Merriman who takes her Lady Mustangs to the sweet-16 for the seventh straight season. “Our young kids are getting better every time out, and I feel as long as we pass well that we can compete with anybody.”
The nightcap at Athens High School had the Lady Spartans of Alexander taking on another SVC member in Huntington. These two district finalist also reached the championship with straight set wins with Alexander defeating Southern Hills League regular season champion in West Union and Huntington sweeping Ironton.
Huntington coach Tina Magill was hoping her team’s height at the net, senior Lydia Bridenbaugh (5’10”) and junior Alli Oyer (6’0”) in particular, would be enough to slow down the fast-paced Alexander attack, but in the end the Alexander squad contained too many weapons to restrain.
Alexander head coach Bradd Jeffers has implemented a fast paced, 5-1 offense that is quarterbacked by Lauren Raines. The junior setter has all sorts of options to choose from on the attack. That fine offense is jumpstarted by one of the better passers in all of Division III in Alexander libero Lauren Thomas, and that assortment of Spartan hitters previously mentioned, starts in the middle with Betsy Irwin and can strike from the outside as well with Whitney Smith.
In Saturday’s final, Alexander got it going early and often as it cruised to a straight set championship victory 25-13, 25-11, 25-12. Raines dished out 38 assists to a balanced hitting attack that had Smith and Irwin produce 16 and 9 kills respectively.
Alexander will continue to enjoy the short bus trips on the tournament trail as the red and black will take the quick drive from Albany to Ohio University’s Convocation Center on Wednesday night to face Westfall. This rematch of last year’s regional tournament will be the second match and will get underway 30 minutes following the 6:00 PM game between Adena and Tusky Valley. Alexander enters regional play looking to earn its way back to the final four for the second straight year, while Westfall hopes to make it back to Wright State for the fourth time in five years.
“The kids are really hungry and they enjoy playing hard,” said Coach Jeffers. “Last year I thought we were satisfied to just get to there (final four), but this year the kids are hungry to get back and win it. That doesn’t mean we will – it doesn’t even mean we’ll get there – but our kids are hungry and they have worked extremely hard.”