Liberty, Orange to meet in regional final


The Olentangy Liberty girls volleyball team started slow in the first set, but made sure not to make the same mistake in the second, third or fourth on the way to an 18-25, 25-17, 25-13, 25-18 win over Dublin Scioto in a Division I regional semifinal Thursday night at Hilliard Darby.

The Patriots, who improved to 25-1 with the win, fell into an early 7-2 hole after the Irish (22-5) used back-to-back blocks by Alec Rothe and Jayla Collins to build an early edge.

Liberty cut it to 8-7 shortly after, but two quick kills from Taylor Jenkins and Maya Desilva pushed the lead to six, 16-10.

The Patriots got as close as 24-18, but dropped the set when Jenkins sealed the deal with a kill.

From that point on, though, it was pretty much all Liberty.

Determined not to dig another early-set hole, the Patriots used a kill by McKenna Cook, another from Gabi Moulton and an ace by Mackenzie Dyer to take an early 5-2 edge they only added to as the set wore on.

Liberty led 13-6 on a well-placed touch shot by Michelle Ezenekwe and, after the Irish used a 6-0 spurt to tighten things up a bit, a touch shot by Cook after a timeout settled the Patriots down. Nicole Russell bumped the lead up a point with another touch shot as Liberty started to hit over Scioto’s long front line instead of trying to hit through it.

After taking the second set to get back to even, the Patriots took control of next, and the match, with an 8-1 run early in the third.

The Irish battled back a bit, but a kill by Ezenekwe snapped a mini Scioto surge and ballooned the spread to a comfortable 18-11 margin. A kill by Russell made it 20-11 and, after a block by Russell forced set point, Moulton found her for a well-placed tip shot to put the finishing touches on the third-set win.

Scioto came out strong in a do-or-die fourth, taking a 10-6 lead on an ace by Madi Comstock, but Liberty scored six straight out of a timeout to take a 12-10 advantage before an ace by Ayva Leon evened things back up.

A kill by Leon tied it at 18-all for Scioto, but Liberty went up 20-18 on a service error and Claire Mrukowski kill and never trailed again. Another Mrukowski kill made it 22-18 and forced a Scioto timeout before Cook hammered home what proved to be the match-winning kill.

Next up, the Patriots will take on Olentangy Orange in Saturday’s regional final.

Olentangy Orange 3, Bishop Watterson 2

The Pioneers won back-t0-back sets after dropping the first, then controlled things early and hung on late to win the fifth and deciding set en route to an 18-25, 25-17, 25-19, 13-25, 15-11 win in a Division I regional semifinal Thursday night in Hilliard.

A couple Orange hitting errors set Watterson up for its 25-18 first-set win, turning a 12-all tie into a 14-12 Eagle edge. Watterson’s Riley McGee hammered home a kill to make it 18-16 a few points later and Mercedes Motton sealed the deal, setting up set point with a block before winning it with a kill.

Orange started the second set on a 4-0 run — a stretch culminating in kill from Angelena Greene — and led 10-5 after a nice run from Ainsley Robare at the service stripe.

A tip shot by Molly Shomock ballooned the lead to 12-5 before a kill by Lily Barron made it 13-6.

Watterson got within four, but an ace from Madison Cugino made it 17-11, blocks by Shomock and Barron pushed the lead to 22-14 and kills by Barron and Cugino wrapped up the 25-17 second-set win.

The teams were tied 15-15 in the third before the Pioneers pulled away. A kill by Olivia McAtee set up set point before her ace won it, 25-19.

Watterson started the fourth 5-0 on a back-to-back kills by Clara Vondran before Cugino stopped the bleeding with a kill.

The Eagles led 16-7 on a block from McGee before kills from McAtee and Cugino made it 16-10. That’s as close as the set would get, though, as Watterson scored the next four to take control on the way to a 25-13 game-tying win capped off by a kill from Ava Hoying.

The all-important fifth set started with a kill from Motton. A kill from Shomock evened things back up and the teams were tied 3-3 after an ace from Robare.

Orange took a 7-4 lead on a kill from Barron, block by Skylar Kelso and ace by Shomock, but Watterson never went away, pulling within a point, 11-10, shortly after.

In the end, though, hitting errors made the difference as the last two Pioneer points came from Eagle errors.

Olentangy Liberty’s Gabi Moulton (33) and Michelle Ezenekwe (5) try and block a shot from Dublin Scioto’s Ayva Leon during the first set of Thursday’s Division I regional semifinal at Hilliard Darby. Liberty’s Gabi Moulton (33) and Michelle Ezenekwe (5) try and block a shot from Dublin Scioto’s Ayva Leon during the first set of Thursday’s Division I regional semifinal at Hilliard Darby. Ben Stroup | The Gazette

By Ben Stroup

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