Olentangy Orange didn’t make things easy, battling to within a point of winning the third set after dropping the first two, but the host Olentangy Liberty girls volleyball team finished with a flourish en route to a three-set, 25-19, 25-18, 27-25 win Thursday night in Powell.
The triumph avenged an earlier loss to the Pioneers (13-7, 8-2 OCC), the Patriots’ (19-4, 9-1 OCC) only league loss of the season, and helped them wrap up their second straight OCC-Central Division title in the process.
Orange, after dropping the first two sets, didn’t go down without a fight. The Pioneers took a 17-15 edge as Jessica Gutridge and Izzy Scholvin teamed up on a wild play toward the end of the third. Gutridge made a diving dig to keep a long rally alive and Scholvin’s desperation flick just cleared the net and found an open space on the floor.
A touch shot from Claire Mrukowski helped Liberty claw back to within a point, though, and a kill from Ana Cate Loftus evened things up and forced an Orange timeout.
The Pioneers responded out of the break, getting to within match point, but a kill by Gabi Moulton tied things at 24 before a combo block between Moulton and Avery Tokarski set up match point for the Patriots. Moulton then found Nicole Russell for what proved to be the match-clinching kill.
Liberty started fast in the opening set, talking a 20-14 lead on an Abbey Queen ace. The Patriots led 22-16 after a Loftus kill and, after the Pioneers staved off match point via a serving error, they gave it, and the set, right back with a hitting error of their own.
Liberty jumped out in front in the second set, too, taking an early 7-3 lead thanks to a Tokarski kill and Mrukowski ace. Orange scored three straight points after a timeout and six of eight to pull within 10-9, but a 9-1 run punctuated by a Mrukowski block all but sealed the deal as the Patriots took a commanding 19-10 lead.
A kill by the Pioneers’ Skylar Kelso stopped the bleeding. Three straight points — another Kelso kill, a block by Haley Buchman and a kill by Madison Cugino — got Orange a little closer before a Loftus kill wrapped up the set.
The Pioneers smooth out the regular season Saturday at 1 p.m. against host St. Joseph Academy. The three seed in the upcoming district tournament, Orange will open postseason play Wednesday against either 41st-seeded West or 40th-seeded Northland.
Top-seeded Liberty, meanwhile, will host either 30th-seeded Canal Winchester or 36th-seeded Whetstone in their postseason opener slated for Thursday night.
Big Walnut 3, Canal Winchester 0
The Golden Eagles made the most of their trip to Canal Winchester Thursday, putting the finishing touches on a 20-2 regular season and second straight OCC-Capital Division championship with a three-set win over the host Indians.
Big Walnut won the opening set 25-18 before taking the second and third by respective scores of 25-11 and 25-20.
Hatteras Welker, Lexi Stooksbury, and Teagan Ng led a balanced hitting attack.
Delaware Hayes ended the regular season with a solid result, playing to a 1-1 draw against visiting Gahanna Lincoln Thursday night.
Kendal Philibin scored the Pacers’ goal off a feed from Bekah Blair.
Cali Kent anchored the Hayes defense with six saves.