COLUMBUS – Olentangy Liberty girls volleyball coach coach Jen Chapman described junior Claranne Fechter as “the best in Central Ohio” after the Patriots win over Dublin Coffman Thursday night.
Fechter got hot in the fifth set of that game and she did it again in Saturday afternoon’s fifth set in Liberty’s win over rival Olentangy Orange.
Fechter had three kills as the Patriots ran off four consecutive points before sealing a 31-29, 21-25, 25-17, 13-25, 15-13 win with a block on match point in a Division I regional final at Worthington Kilbourne.
Now, Chapman’s team can call itself the best in Central Ohio. The Patriots are headed to states for the first time in school history.
“I was fortunate enough when I was in high school (at Perrysburg) as a softball player – I went to state and I know how rare those moments are,” she said. “So, I’m just going to appreciate it and not take it for granted.”
Liberty (27-0) has stood up to every challenge along the way. The regional final was no different after the rival Pioneers dominated the fourth set to even things up before opening the fifth 4-0 on three Patriot errors and a London Davis kill.
Liberty pulled even after four Orange errors, but Davis and Taylor Metzler bookended a three-point rally to put the Pioneers ahead again.
“The last (set) just came down to one point or two … a couple of balls went their way and they got some momentum back,” Orange coach Katie Duy said. “A couple of things didn’t go our way and they got a couple of big blocks. I think we got a little timid offensively.”
The teams played evenly until Fechter got hot. After a Fechter kill, Taylor Karlo tied it at 12 before two more Fechter points put Liberty ahead to stay.
“We came back and regrouped after that fourth set,” said sophomore setter Logan Flaugh, who had 43 assists and 19 digs. “I feel like we were a little out of it that fourth set. I think it really shows how well we fought and stuck together. We definitely had some things that didn’t go our way and (Orange) made some really good plays and we had to regroup.”
Davis got Orange within 14-13 before Fechter blocked a Madison Moll game-tying bid on the left side to clinch Liberty’s first regional championship.
“I knew they were going right side,” Fechter said. “So, I just went straight up and just hoped I was going to get it.”
Fechter had 22 kills and 16 digs, Karlo added 12 kills and a pair of aces, Maile Steckelberg had 15 digs and Abby Erickson had five blocks for the Patriots.
Neither team could create distance in the first set. A Fechter ace capped a four-point rally to give the Patriots a 12-8 lead. But Moll had a pair of kills, Davis added another and Megan McCollum served up an ace as Orange responded with five straight to take the lead.
Neither team scored more than two straight points the rest of the way. Erickson gave Liberty a 30-29 lead before a Karlo tip shot sealed the marathon set victory for the Patriots.
Orange overcame a 6-0 Liberty run early in the second set thanks to Tazmin Appiah’s stingy defense at the net. The sophomore had four blocks and a kill to help the Pioneers even it up with a 9-2 run to close out the second.
Appiah had a game-high 8.5 blocks, matching her effort from Thursday night’s semifinal.
Liberty overcame some early service troubles in the third. Karlo served up a pair of aces, Flaugh added a third before Fechter clinched the set with a fourth as part of a 12-2 run to close out the frame.
“I think it was nerves – it’s not like we don’t know how to serve a ball,” Chapman said. “I knew it was going to come back – we’ve always been a strong serving team.”
The Pioneers took over in the fourth. Metzler, Sydney Gossard and Davis scored and Addie Evans added an ace to highlight a 5-0 rally to give the Pioneers the lead for good. Carrigan O’Reilly had three kills and Moll added two and an ace to help Orange in a 11-2 run to close out a convincing set victory.
Davis finished with 16 kills, Moll added 14 and Gossard and Metzler each chipped in nine; O’Reilly had 44 assists for the Pioneers (21-6); and McCollum and Evans led the defense in digs with 23 and 22, respectively.
“In four years – we’ve gone from (14) wins the year before my first year to 21 wins in each season, three district titles, three conference titles and a regional runner-up,” Duy said. “It comes from these seniors. They bought in as freshmen and made things easier on the coaching staff.”
Liberty will play Cincinnati Ursuline Academy Friday night at 6 p.m. at Wright State University’s Nutter Center in Dayton.
Follow Michael Rich on Twitter @mrichnotwealthy or contact him at [email protected]