WHITEHALL – The Olentangy Liberty girls volleyball team struck hard, fast and early in a 25-8, 25-15, 25-18 win over Lancaster in a Division I district semifinal Thursday night at Whitehall-Yearling High School.
And when it was over, the Patriots found themselves in a spot to win their third straight district championship and fourth out of the last five years.
“I felt pretty good about the draw,” Liberty coach Jen Chapman said. “Even though we were seeded fifth – I felt like where we were able to put ourselves in the bracket was pretty good.”
The Patriots are regulars in the district final round. They hadn’t missed it since 2014.
Sydney Novy had three straight aces to open the second set and finished with five for the match.
“Serving has been stressed all throughout practice,” Novy said. “(We want) to hit them hard and get them in so that the other team is out of system. That’s a really good thing for our defense and our blocking can really set up. So, serving is a really big factor for our offense. Usually if you’re good at serving, you’re going to do really, really well.”
Chapman agrees that serving has been a big part of Liberty’s success this season.
“We need to serve aggressively,” she said. “We’re a good offensive team, but we’re not the (biggest) team. We know to get teams out of system we have to be aggressive with what we’re doing with the ball. So, that’s a big component of what we focus on.”
Novy was tied for second on the team with Logan Flaugh with 31 behind Claranne Fechter’s 40 coming into the game for the Patriots, who had served up 180 aces as a team this season.
Liberty never let Lancaster get off the blocks in the first set, scoring six of the first seven and opening up a 15-4 lead on the way to an easy set victory.
By the time 19th-seeded Lancaster got its feet under it, Liberty already had a two-set lead.
Ansley Baker had a couple of kills and Grace Vail added an ace during a 5-0 rally that gave the Gales (13-12) a 6-4 lead.
Abi Sebenoler and Abby Roubinek each had a pair of kills for the Patriots, who ran off five straight to take a 12-8 lead and never trailed again.
Fechter had 15 digs and 13 kills, Sebenoler had three blocks and Logan Flaugh had 27 assists to lead the Patriots (17-7).
Liberty faces 15th-seeded Westerville Central for a district title Saturday afternoon at 4 p.m. at Whitehall.
The Patriots beat the Warhawks in straight sets in each of their two meetings in OCC-Buckeye play this season. Central is coming off a pair of upsets over fourth-seeded Hilliard Bradley and sixth-seeded Watkins Memorial (both in five sets).
“You can’t look past any team,” Chapman said. “Westerville Central is the perfect example. They’ve taken down the four- and six-seed now. They’re on a roll and we can’t have a midset of ‘We already beat them.’ I’m really excited. I think we’ve got a good opportunity with what we’ve been presented with.”
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