There are a few things in life that are certain. Death is one, obviously, and of course taxes … oh, and the Olentangy Orange girls volleyball team competing in a regional tournament.
The Pioneers have made the regional showcase each of the last five years and now, thanks to Thursday’s 25-21, 25-9, 25-16 win over defending state champion St. Francis DeSales, punched a ticket to a regional final each of the last three.
Last year, it was the Stallions who ultimately ended their run. That night, Orange lost in the regional final in four sets— 25-27, 16-25, 28-26, 22-25.
This time around, though, things ended a little differently.
The Pioneers took a few points to find their form, but once they did they cruised the rest of the way.
Back-to-back kills by Tazmin Appiah helped Orange cap off a 4-0 run and turn a one-point deficit into a 10-9 lead. The Pioneers added a couple more points before a kill by Tara Mnich helped DeSales end the run.
The Pioneers went up 20-16 via a block by Molly Shomock and, after the Stallions stopped the bleeding with a kill by Allison Weiner, scored the next two points to take a 23-17 advantage.
DeSales got as close as 24-21 with back-to-back points after Shomock’s block gave Orange match point, but a service error ended the set.
The second set, meanwhile, wasn’t nearly as close. The Pioneers jumped ahead 7-2 thanks to an ace from Ainsley Robare and extended the lead, 13-4, with a kill by Olivia McAtee, forcing a Stallion timeout.
A kill by Shomock ballooned the edge to 20-5 and Appiah polished off the 25-9 win with a kill of her own.
The defending champs got off to a better start in the third set, but still trailed by four, 12-8, after a kill by Morgan Tydings.
A few minutes later, DeSales’ deficit swelled to eight as a kill by Shomock and block by Appiah made it 16-8.
A Hanna Borer kill and Madison Cugino ace made it 19-9 and, after the Stallions got to within 25-13 with a late surge, the Pioneers scored the final two points to seal the deal, the last coming on a kill by McAtee.
Next up, Orange will take on Bishop Watterson, which knocked off Olentangy Liberty 25-10, 33-31, 25-17 in Thursday’s other semifinal, in Saturday’s regional championship back at Hilliard Darby.
The Patriots, no strangers to the regional round themselves, battled in their third regional semifinal in the last three years, but couldn’t get back to the final.
Watterson raced out to a 4-0 first-set lead and led 6-1 before a kill by Liberty’s Abby Roubinek tightened things up a bit.
The Eagles continued to cruise after that, though, taking a 14-4 lead thanks in part to a pair of aces from Hope Uptegraph. The Patriots stopped the spree with a block by McKenna Cook, but couldn’t get much closer.
The second set, meanwhile, was as close as they come. Liberty went up 5-4 on a Roubinek kill and Mackenzie Dyer ace, but Watterson scored the next three points to take a 7-5 edge.
The Patriots regained the lead with a kill by Cook, but after a Gina Grden kill evened things at nine, the Eagles scored six of the next eight points to take a 15-11 lead.
Liberty trailed by as many as five before clawing back. A couple big-time digs from Madison Tinsley and a kill from Roubinek sliced the deficit to three, 19-16, and a strong play at the net by Katherine Donahue made it a 23-22 game.
It was back and fourth from there as the teams traded points until Olyvia Kennedy came through with back-to-back kills to give Watterson the 33-31 second-set win.
The Patriots took a 6-3 lead early in the third on an ace by Dyer, but the Eagles rallied from there, using an 8-2 run to go up 17-12 on their way to the third-set win.