PARMA HTS. — Clearview stared adversity in the eye and didn’t blink Thursday night against Rocky River in the Division II sectional final at Holy Name.
The Clippers trailed in every set, but found a way to win three of them to advance to Tuesday’s district semifinal against top-seeded Padua (22-2), a three-game winner over Norton in Thursday’s first match.
Clearview (22-2), the last Patriot Athletic Conference team alive in the postseason, handed Rocky River (12-10) a 25-23, 24-26, 28-26, 26-24 victory.
The Clippers were without sophomore libero Nerelis Betances — out with pneumonia — who has played a key role with her serving and defense. Clippers coach Dave Dorinski promoted Madison Fortney to play the role, and she came through with flying colors by serving for nine points and finishing with 26 digs.
“We put a freshman in to replace our libero,” Dorinski said. “I had all the confidence in the world putting her in there. She’s a good player. My biggest concern was even with her there we had to switch a few people around. It wasn’t our same rotation.”
Rocky River looked as if it would win the first game rather easily. The Pirates built an 18-10 lead before Clearview’s biggest weapon — 5-foot-10 junior Heather Younkin — came alive to lead the Clippers on a 11-4 run to pull within 22-21. After a serving error, senior co-captain Katlynne Baker beat Rocky River’s block for a point and Clearview managed to move ahead on a Pirates hitting error, a Younkin kill and another Rocky River error. Baker and Younkin each had 15 kills, Younkin had five block kills and senior co-captain Rachel Bolmeyer chipped in with seven kills. Junior setter Sarah Ernst had 32 assists.
“We definitely put forth all our energy,” said Baker, who was 21-of-22 serving with 15 points. “Block after block, we still wanted to come back and push it to get a victory.”
“We’ve never made it past the first playoff game before since I’ve been playing,” Younkin said. “Rocky River beat us last year in the first game, so it was just great to beat them this year.”
“Every game, both teams had opportunities to pull things out,” Rocky River coach Kelly Bennett said. “There were some long rallies. I thought (Clearview’s) defense was phenomenal.
“A lot of the balls that we were hitting (Thursday), on other nights we were used to seeing them dropping. They found ways to keep balls in play.”
Clearview’s defense was led by Bolmeyer’s 30 digs, followed by Fortney (26) and Baker (23).
One particular sequence epitomized Clearview’s determination.
With the score knotted at 21 in the fourth game, Rocky River juniors Kara Coffman and Mary Kate Krajer managed to block three or four Clearview hits at the net until Younkin finally got one past the block to give the Clippers the lead. Rocky River got it back when Younkin sent a shot out of bounds and Coffman got another block.
However, Clearview scored on Younkin’s tip at the net and added another point when junior Chania Sturgill’s shot found the open floor to lead 24-23. The Clippers put the match away after the teams exchanged hitting errors followed by senior Rachel Bolmeyer’s ace that fell between two Rocky River defenders.
“Everybody chipped in,” Younkin said. “We left it all on the floor.”
“(River) contained Heather on the front row,” Dorinski said. “It made us work twice as hard. We’re not a very big team — we have only one girl 5-10 (Younkin). They play bigger than they are and with a lot of heart. Everywhere we have a weakness, they try to pick up their strengths.”
Contact Tim Gebhardt at 329-7135 or email@example.com.