The Lady Warriors held off Tusky Valley to capture a four-set victory 27-25, 23-25, 25-11, 25-20 in Wednesday night’s Division III regional semifinal at the Convo in Athens.
ATHENS – Coach Laura Smith and her rich in tradition Adena volleyball program took one step closer to securing a return trip to the final four.
The Lady Warriors held off Tusky Valley to capture a four-set victory 27-25, 23-25, 25-11, 25-20 in Wednesday night’s Division III regional semifinal at the Convo in Athens. These two fine programs split a pair of close games to start the sweet 16 match, but a dominate game three performance from Adena was enough to push the Lady Warriors to Saturday’s regional title game against Albany Alexander.
“I’m not sure what the reason was for the sluggish start,” said Smith. “The difference in game one is that we finished; whereas in game two we didn’t. Finally in game three we were able to get something going and we started playing more consistent.”
A big part of Adena’s ability to get things going was its balanced attack at the net. With Tusky presenting an extremely tall, athletic frontline including a pair of 6-0 middle-hitters led by sophomore Sarah Brown, Adena had trouble finding clean looks at the net when on the attack.
“I was having problems blocking number 21,” said Jordan of Brown, who finished with a match-high 29 kills. “When I was hitting I didn’t notice their size. I noticed a couple double blocks, but I never felt like their size was causing problems.”
The Tusky size and scrappy back row play led to several long rallies throughout the early part of the match. This forced these two teams into some very competitive finishes.
In game one, it was Adena up 24-19 only to see Tuscarawas fight off five game points to tie the game at 24. Adena’s Ashley Jordan and Tusky’s Brown traded kills to tie the game at 25, but Jordan then followed with another rocket to put Adena back up 26-25. This time Tusky was unable to fight off a sixth set-point as Jordan was able to freeze the middle block to free the net for Kristen Snyder on the outside. Snyder, a senior who finished with 8 kills on the night, capitalized with a deep kill to give Adena the one game advantage.
Game two had a similar tight, point-to-point finish. With the game tied at 21, Brown recorded back-to-back kills putting Tusky up 23-21, only to see Adena answer with two straight points of its own to notch things up again at 23. This time it was Tusky that found a way to finish the deal as the Trojans scored the final two points of game two to even the match at a game apiece.
“Tusky does have a lot of size at the net and Brown is a good player,” said Smith. “We did try to move Ashley around a little bit to make their middles work. I thought later in the match we started to become more balanced in our attack.”
This balance that Coach Smith was talking about was keyed by the decision-making of Adena setter Megan Purdin. The Warrior junior led the 5-1 offense with 46 assists using a variety of hitters led by Jordan’s 18 kills. Adena also got 11 kills from Kirstie Yates and nine kills from both Carly Frazier and Kelsey Bielanow.
With a variety of hitters staring to get involved, Adena took control of the match with a pair of seven-point runs. With Adena leading game three 10-8, the first run stretched the lead to nine. Following a short Tusky attempt to fight back, Adena finished the blowout win with the final seven points of game three to win the pivotal game three 25-11.
Game four was a tight, see-saw battle that saw the game tied for the ninth time at 15 apiece. This is when Adena took control as the Lady Warriors scored eight of the next nine points. Not even two Tusky Valley timeouts during this run could slow Adena as the two-shade blue rode this run to a 25-20 game four victory to complete the three games to one regional victory.
The win sends Adena (23-3) to Saturday’s regional championship against Albany Alexander. The championship is at the Convo with a 2:00 PM start time.
“They are a very good team,” Coach Smith said of her next opponent. “They have seasoned players and they run a very quick offense. We have to play really well to win.”