POWELL – The Olentangy Orange girls volleyball team ran the gamut of top competition over the last week, ranging from close rivals to state powers.
And while the Pioneers didn’t go through it unscathed, a decisive 25-18, 25-18, 25-16 win at rival Olentangy Liberty Thursday put them in control of the OCC-Buckeye with a two-game advantage with four to play.
“We had a couple of good weeks of practice … and our schedule coming off of playing (Parma Padua Franciscan) and then some great competition this weekend,” Orange coach Katie Duy said. “My motto has always been to play the toughest schedule possible. They play against those teams and then come out here with confidence because they know that they can play with the best.”
Padua handed Orange its first loss of the season Sept. 7 and the Pioneers hosted New Philadelphia, Strongsville, Toledo St. Ursula and Marengo Highland last weekend and won three of four.
The two-game edge in the league is because Orange won a five-set thriller over Liberty to open league play earlier this season.
But this was decidedly different.
“I know that’s not reflective of these girls and this team,” Liberty coach Jen Chapman said. “We don’t want to be playing our best volleyball right now. We still have a long season ahead of us and hopefully we can figure it out and make a good run at the end of the season.”
The Pioneers scored the first five points and 10 of the first 12 to take control in the first set. London Davis had three kills and Addison Evans added an ace during the rally.
Claranne Fechter scored a couple of points and Logan Flaugh had a kill and combined with Sydney Reed for a block as Liberty scored five of six points to keep it close.
But Orange wouldn’t allow Liberty to get any closer as Davis and Madison Moll had four kills apiece down the stretch to close out the first.
Arianna Johnson was a part of a pair of combo blocks as the Pioneers scored the first three of the second set. Fechter and Abi Sebenoler each scored as the Patriots (10-4, 4-2) responded with three straight to tie it up.
But Orange had two separate 6-1 rallies to take control in the middle of the set with Molly Shomock scoring four of the six in the latter rally, which pushed the Pioneers’ lead to 19-8.
Fechter scored four times and added an ace and Raegan Rosi added a pair of kills as Liberty went 10-2 to close the gap, but it wasn’t enough.
Hanna Borer had three aces and Evans added a pair as Orange opened the third set 12-3 and pushed the lead to as many as 12 before a late rally by Liberty closed the gap.
“I just feel like we couldn’t get anything gelling together,” Chapman said. “I don’t think we really played as a team on the court and we couldn’t get (Orange) out of system very often.”
Davis finished with 14 kills, Moll added four blocks to tie Tazmin Appiah for the team lead. Borer finished with 29 assists, three aces and nine digs and Evans had 16 digs and three aces to lead the Pioneers (13-2, 6-0).
“We had a good tempo and our setter is really good at speeding up the tempo,” Duy said. “I think this is the most athletic team we’ve had since I’ve been here. So, we have the hitters to run that faster offense.”
Both teams continue league play Tuesday night at 7 p.m. Orange hosts Westerville Central while Liberty visits Westerville South.
Follow Michael Rich on Twitter @mrichnotwealthy or contact him at email@example.com.