The Olentangy Orange girls volleyball team has won a lot of games, but never more in a single season than this one.
The Pioneers hadn’t won a regional championship before this season, either. That all changed Saturday at Hilliard Darby, though, as Orange took care of eighth-ranked and previously unbeaten Dublin Scioto in straight sets to punch a ticket to the upcoming state showcase at Wright State University.
The Pioneers, who improved to 25-3 with the win, won the first set 25-23 before taking the second and third by respective scores of 25-17 and 25-23 to seal the deal.
The Irish (27-1) led early in the first, taking a 8-5 edge thanks to a kill from Alec Rothe, a Florida commit, but momentum didn’t stay on the Scioto side of the net much longer. A block by Lily Barron, committed to D-I Houston, brought Orange within a couple, 12-10, and the Pioneers still trailed by two, 21-19, after a kill by Barron and block by Izzy Scholvin.
Orange got back to even thanks to a pair of Scioto hitting errors and, once it took the lead, never relinquished it.
The Pioneers, who rallied after falling behind in the first set, started fast in the second and third. Orange, thanks to a key block by Skylar Kelso and some point-saving digs from Emma Cugino, was lights out on defense en route to an early 7-2 second-set edge.
A touch shot by Scioto’s Riley Winbush snapped a 5-0 Pioneer run, but Orange maintained a comfortable cushion the rest of the way, taking a 17-10 advantage thanks in part to back-to-back blocks from Kelso.
A couple Orange serving errors helped the Irish hang around, but a Pioneer ace ended up putting the finishing touches on the seven-point, second-set win.
Orange started fast in the third, too, jumping out to a 6-1 lead before Scioto battled back to tighten things up a bit down the stretch.
Madison Cugino led the Pioneer attack, finishing with 15 kills. Barron also did plenty of damage, collecting 11 kills in the win.
Taanishi Gulati finished with a team-best three aces, Scholvin and Kelso had three blocks apiece and Emma Cugino anchored the defense with 22 digs.
The win sets up a showdown against Toledo St. Ursula Academy (19-8) in Friday’s D-I state semifinal at Wright State University’s Nutter Center. Action is set to get underway at 2 p.m. The winner will play either Kings Mills Kings (26-1) or Cleveland St. Joseph Academy (23-4) in Saturday’s state championship game at 3 p.m.