The Olentangy Orange girls volleyball team couldn’t have asked for a better start to Saturday’s Division I regional championship match against conference rival Olentangy Liberty.
Despite losing to the Patriots twice in the regular season — both by tight 3-2 margins, the Pioneers looked poised to run away with the opening set, up 18-11 thanks to a kill by Molly Shomock.
Liberty roared from behind, though, rallying for a 25-23 opening-set win. The Patriots won the next two, too, punching a ticket to Thursday’s Division I state semifinal against Amherst Steele with a thrilling 25-23, 25-17, 25-21 win at Hilliard Darby. The state semi is slated for a 2 p.m. start at Wright State University’s Nutter Center.
The Patriots (26-1) used a quick 6-1 burst to get within three, 20-17. An Ace by Kacey Hilvert, block by Michelle Ezenekwe, another block by Kaili Worcester and well-placed touch shot off the hand of Claire Mrukowski highlighted the run.
Liberty tied it at 21 on an Orange (20-7) error at the net before a kill from McKenna Cook punctuated the opening-set win.
Orange led in the early stages of the second set, taking a 6-5 lead on a kill by Shomock, but the Patriots pulled away after that. They took an 11-8 lead on a Pioneer hitting error — the first time either team led by more than two points in the set — and never looked back.
The comebacks seemed to deflate Orange a bit as it never quite recovered. A block from Mrukowski ballooned the lead to 18-9 before a big-time dig by Abbey Queen set up a kill by Cook to put the Patriots up 23-11. Gabi Moulton won a battle at the net to secure the set.
Liberty, thanks in part to a block and kill from Ezenekwe, scored the first four points of the third set before taking a 9-4 edge after the teams traded points for a bit.
The Pioneers never stopped playing hard. A kill from Ainsley Robare brought her team within five, 15-10, and back-to-back aces by Shomock made it 20-18 down the stretch.
Orange’s Lily Barron came up with a key block to keep it a two-point spread, 23-21, but a block by Ezenekwe set up match point before she won the game with a kill.
No shoes? No problem … at least for Olentangy Orange’s Saketh Rudraraju.
The sophomore lost both shoes 400 meters into Saturday’s Division I state championship race at Fortress Obetz and Memorial Park, but still managed to finish 16th among the 178 runners in action to earn all-state honors.
Rudraraju crossed the finish line in 15:39.2.
Little Miami’s William Zegarski took top honors in a time of 14:39.9 while Hilliard Davidson’s Connor Ackley was the top Central Ohio finisher, nabbing runner-up honors in 14:58.1.
Rudraraju’s teammate, Carter Giacomelli, finished 85th in 16:29.5.
In Division II, Buckeye Valley’s Liam George finished 129th in 17:30.2.
On the girls’ side, Big Walnut and Olentangy Liberty competed as teams, finishing 19th and 20th with respective scores of 501 and 526.
Julia Bockenstette led the Patriots, finishing 106th overall in 19:52.9. Big Walnut’s Natalie Ghering, the Golden Eagles’ top performer, was close behind in 109th place thanks to an effort of 19:55.8.
Individually, Olentangy Berlin’s Grace Heitkamp had the best finish among Delaware County standouts, finishing 35th in the D-I race with an effort of 18:56.4.
Allie Metcalf scored both of the game’s goals as New Albany won its first regional title in program history with a 2-0 win over Olentangy Liberty Saturday afternoon at DeSales.
After the team’s battled through a scoreless first half, Metcalf broke the scoring seal with a little more than 28 minutes left in the game. Kate Partridge sent a free kick into the box and Metcalf took care of the rest, depositing the ball into the back of the net for what proved to be the only goal her team would need.
She added an insurance tally with a little more than 15 minutes to play by converting a penalty kick.
Next up, the Eagles will take on Mount Notre Dame in today’s state semifinal at London.
Liberty, which was looking for its third regional title, finished 16-2-2.