EATON TWP. — Olmsted Falls survived, but defending champion Elyria didn’t in Division I sectional volleyball action at Midview on Thursday night.
The second-seeded Bulldogs were easy winners over the host Middies, sweeping the nightcap 25-6, 25-11, and
25-20 to join their Southwestern Conference rival Avon Lake in Tuesday’s district semifinals.
Falls, the SWC co-champ with top-seeded Amherst, advances with a record of 19-3, while Midview, co-champion of the West Shore Conference with Fairview, finished 17-6.
The Lady Shoremen started quickly to defeat the third-seeded Pioneers (16-7) in four games in Thursday’s opener. Avon Lake (10-13) won the first two games, 25-23 and 25-20, dropped Game 3 25-15, but bounced back to win the clincher, 25-19.
It was a battle featuring coaching prodigies of Elyria’s retired legend Carol Russo — Jen Howser at Avon Lake and Jodie Johnson, who took over for Russo at the start of this season. Both Howser and Johnson are former Pioneer stars.
“Our seniors stepped up big-time for us,” said Howser. “Miranda (Barnhart) out on the court talking to everybody — keeping everything going. She did a real good job with leadership.”
Barnhart and Lisa Bakaitis led the surge early and late in knocking out the three-time defending champions. Barnhart finished with a game-high 19 kills while Bakaitis had 11. Carly Dalgleish came up with 21 digs, Surti Schuller and Barnhart each had 17 in leading the defensive effort. Junior setter Kalli Wakefield had 33 assists.
“We scrimmaged Elyria earlier in the season and we did pretty good,” said Barnhart. “We weren’t intimidated like they probably thought we would be. They beat us out of the tournament two years ago and probably came in pretty confident.”
But the Shoremen stood toe-to-toe through much of the first game before opening a 24-19 lead and staving off one last rally from the Lady Pioneers to win by two points off a block kill by junior Allie Palmer. In Game 2, Barnhart was in on several huge kills in opening leads of 9-4 and 14-7.
“That’s something we’ve been flirting with a few times this year,” said Johnson. “We were down 0-2 against Stow. We went down 0-2 against Mayfield but were able to come back from that. Our team has been like that for some time, where they don’t get started right away. It’s always that initial start that gets us busted.”
The closest Elyria got in the second game was 23-19 off a four-point rally sparked by a huge block from senior Jodi Richards. The Pioneers took the third game rather easily, 25-15, but doubt never entered the minds of the Shoregals.
“We started the fourth game like nothing had happened,” said Barnhart. “We cleared our heads and took a real good breath before going back on the court and went back like it was the first game.”
“(Elyria) came at us the third game,” Howser said. “They really took it to us. They got in our heads but we didn’t want to be on the defensive end. Our philosophy is to take it to them and go at them.”
Avon Lake jumped in front 6-3 — bumped it to 14-7 and maintained at least a five-point cushion the rest of way.
“(The girls) have stepped it up so big in postseason,” said Howser. “Unbelievable. I was telling my assistant coach I’d rather have everything click now than to peak early and drop. I’m on Cloud 9 right now.”
“Avon Lake played an outstanding game,” Johnson said. “They came out ready to pounce on us and that’s exactly what happened.”
Elyria had strong efforts from senior Carly Kuehn and juniors Amanda Medvetz and Brigette Jones. Medvetz finished with 15 kills, Kuehn nine and Jones seven. Jones had four solo blocks and an assist while Sarah Bracey had 34 assists and Jen Bower 22 digs.
Falls took charge early in eliminating Midview. The Lady Bulldogs rolled to a 14-4 first-game advantage and really had things in hand — at least for the first two games. To the Middies’ credit, they battled Olmsted Falls evenly through most of the final game before a three-point surge led by junior Lauren Whyte finished the match.
“We had a game plan coming in and the kids followed it to a tee,” said Falls coach Dawn Moses, who won her 250th match in her career. “We studied it for two days, practiced it for two days and put it on the floor. I was happy with all the hitters. We have a pretty good offense.
“And we complimented them in the locker on their defense and their serving. We scored a few of Midview’s points in that third game but for the most part we put the ball in their side of the court. That’s what we needed to do.”
Whyte finished with 17 kills and Brittany Snider had 11. Calli Roberts and Christine Peffer each had three blocks while Julie Radigan was credited with 49 assists.
“We tried to get a piece of their hits — especially Lauren Whyte,” said Midview coach Debbie Borsz. “I thought we did a much better job in the second and the third game. They have two or three good hitters. We have one in Jacki (Street).”
Street led Midview with five kills and 13 blocks. Sarah Kirchner had nine blocks while Courtney Chalmers had 25 digs. Senior Sara DuBois also played very well.
Contact Tim Gebhardt at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.