By BRET BEVENS
Southern Ohio Today
SUGAR GROVE – Sometimes competitions are so good that it’s tough when a team has to lose. The Wheelersburg volleyball team had just such a contest in their Division III Regional Semifinal against Tuscarawas Valley on Thursday at Berne Union High School.
The Pirates dropped a grueling five-set match to the Trojans, who won 25-17, 23-25, 25-21, 25-27, 15-13. The loss dropped the Pirates to 23-2 on the year and eliminates them from the Region 11 playoffs. The win takes the Trojans mark to 26-1 on the season and advances them to the regional final where they will meet Adena on Saturday at Berne Union.
In the fourth set with the Pirates trailing two sets to one, Tuscarawas Valley grabbed a 12-9 lead. But after a timeout, Wheelersburg mounted a rally that included a block by Kylee Barney and Madie Mays, two points served up by Kiera Kennard and a Ryliegh Meeker kill gave the Pirates a 20-16 lead.
A late rally at the service line by Ashley Merrick allowed Tuscarawas Valley to knot the game at 25. But dramatic, game ending kills by Meeker and Barney tied up the match at two sets apiece.
In the fifth set, Wheelersburg led 11-7, and looked poised to advance, but after a sideout and four straight points delivered by Locie Levengood, Tuscarawas Valley had a 12-11 edge. During Levengood’s stay at the back line she got help in the form of great front line play by Ali Shane with a pair of kills. Shane added two more kills late to ice the match for the Trojans.
Wheelersburg head coach Allen Perry said that Tuscarawas Valley made one more play.
“I’m super proud (of my seniors),” Perry said. “They have had one heck of a career here at Wheelersburg. They are highly decorated and they have nothing to be ashamed of.”
In the first set, the Trojans had two long stints at the back line. Early in the set Leaha McMullin stepped to the back line, and with help of some fine net play, served up six straight points and giving her team a six-point edge. Later in the set, Merrick spent a five-point term at the service line giving TVHS a 17-8, lead.
The frontline play of Tuscarwas Valley’s Arora Levengood was strong through the entire set and she finished with one of her kills.
The second set was tight the whole way. Neither team enjoyed a lead larger than three points through the entire set. A Barney block gave the Pirates a 21-20 lead, But just moments later the Trojans had knotted the set at 21. The Pirates won the set by two, 25-23.
The third set was a mirror image of the second set with neither team being able to create a comfortable lead. That changed when the Levengood stepped to service and served up four points, including an ace. Another ace by Julia Felgenhauer gave TVHS game point, a sideout by Wheelersburg delayed the outcome briefly, but the Trojans pulled out the win 25-21.
Ryliegh Meeker had 14 kills to lead the Pirates to go along with four blocks. Barney added 12 kills to go with nine blocks and Kaylee Darnell added 10 kills and 17 digs. Lauren Jolly led the Pirates in assists with 39.
South Webster advances to Region 15 championship
South Webster defeated Shadyside in three sets on Thursday – 25-19, 29-19, 25-8 – in a Division IV Region 15 semifinal.
The Jeeps will meet Newark Catholic on Saturday at 2 p.m. at New Lexington High School.