By Michael Rich
The Olentangy Orange girls volleyball team continues to break new ground this season, and now it can check beating defending OCC-Capital Division champion Big Walnut off the list.
The Pioneers (11-1, 5-1 OCC) won in four sets, 25-21, 25-20, 23-25 and 25-16, to pick up their seventh straight victory of the season and first over the Golden Eagles in four years.
“The program has been a mediocre (one) … and I think the seniors are starting to buy in,” first-year Pioneer coach Katie Duy said. “I’m happy, especially after losing that third set, that they were able to bounce back and show maturity.”
“We haven’t beaten Big Walnut in the last four years, so that’s huge for us,” junior Samantha Rubel said. “We’ve got to keep playing hard, practice hard and not take this one for granted.”
Big Walnut (5-4, 4-2 OCC) rallied late in the first set to close a 22-17 deficit to 23-21, but Rubel ended the set on consecutive points, the first on a kill and the winner on a block.
The Pioneers opened a big 14-5 lead in the second set, capped by back-to-back points scored by freshman Carrigan O’Reilly with a kill and a block.
The Eagles stormed back and cut the deficit to 23-20 thanks in part to an ace by junior Alexandria Brehm and a couple of kills by junior Olivia Wince, but Orange scored the final two of the set, which was capped by senior Jordan Gels’ kill.
“I saw them running really, really fast, and we weren’t keeping up with it,” Eagles coach Ron Lehman said. “Their middle hitters really did a great job.”
The two teams were neck and neck in the third set, though the Eagles controlled the lead most of the way, building as much as a five-point cushion at 17-12 on an Abigail Kitchen kill.
The Pioneers cut it to one on a couple of occasions, the latest of which was on a kill by Rubal, but Kitchen closed the set with a kill of her own for the Eagles.
Big Walnut freshman Machaela Podraza served up an ace to cut a close fourth set deficit to 16-15, but Orange was too much in the end. The Pioneers scored nine of the final 10 points, four by Rubal, to secure a 25-16 win and the match.
“I’m just trying to work hard for my team and make sure I put the ball down when I’m there,” Rubal said.
It was the second straight loss for Big Walnut after winning four straight coming into the week.
“I thought my kids played hard,” Lehman said. “I was really happy with the effort they gave. Orange is a night and day difference from what they’ve been in the past. They were very, very good.”
The Eagles host Hilliard Davidson on Saturday morning at 11:30 a.m. and the Pioneers are back at it on Monday at 7 p.m. at Worthington Kilbourne.
Hayes 3, Franklin Heights 0
Hayes picked up a hard-fought OCC-Capital Division win Thursday in Columbus, knocking off host Franklin Heights 25-20, 25-22, 25-23.
Julia Kaylor led the attack with 12 kills. She also had five assists, five aces and a dig. Other Pacer standouts included Karli Reed, who finished with eight kills, two aces and five digs; Sydney Krewson, who chipped in eight kills, three digs and an ace; and Chloe Barton, who had a team-best 20 assists to go with three digs, a kill and an ace.
Olentangy 3, Mount Vernon 0
The Braves used a balanced attack to get the job done Thursday, dropping the visiting Yellow Jackets 25-22, 25-19, 25-20.
Olivia Margolies led the attack with nine kills while Nhu Do had eight and Lauren Judge finished with seven.
Zoe Miller was also solid, finishing with a team-best 23 digs.
Olentangy also did plenty of damage with the serve (73-of-74 with 11 aces).
Dublin Coffman 3, Liberty 0
The Patriots hung tough in the middle set, but couldn’t get much going in the first and third as they fell to the host Shamrocks 16-25, 20-25, 11-25 Thursday in Dublin.
Also: Fairbanks def. Buckeye Valley 25-14, 25-11, 25-13; Delaware Christian def. Shekinah Christian 25-23, 25-18, 25-16.
Liberty continued its run through the OTCA Team Tournament, advancing with a 4-1 win over visiting Pickerington North Thursday in Powell.
Patriot winners included Alexia Meyer at first singles (6-0, 6-0), Lexi Steer at second singles (6-0, 6-0), Sidney Reineke at third singles (6-0, 6-2) and the duo of Anna Delaney and Lizzie Radkiewicz at first doubles (6-2, 6-1).
Granville 3, Big Walnut 0
Macie Kercsmar won at first singles (6-7, 7-6, 1-0) and Lindsey Hill handled business at third singles (6-1, 6-3), but it wasn’t enough as Granville edged host Big Walnut 3-2 Thursday in Sunbury.
Buckeye Valley 4, River Valley 1
The Barons cruised past the host Vikings Thursday, sweeping the doubles action while winning on two of the three singles courts.
BV winners included Arianna Phrakornkham at first singles (6-3, 6-0), Kasey Morris at second singles (6-0, 6-0), Alexis Poulton and Brienna Garber at first doubles (6-3, 7-5) and Julie Sparks and Alex Garber at second doubles (7-5, 5-7, 6-0).
Nathan White, Brandon Becker and Curtis Herzog found the back of the net as Hayes picked up a solid 3-2 OCC-Capital Division win over host New Albany Thursday night.
Becker and Justin McKee picked up assists in the win while Ian Agler finished with eight saves in the Pacer goal.
Big Walnut 2, Worthington Kilbourne 1
Tim Rumas and Sam Mason scored as Big Walnut rallies past visiting Worthington Kilbourne Thursday in Sunbury.
Liberty 2, Watterson 2.
Orange 3, Mount Vernon 0; Hayes 2, New Albany 2.
Follow Michael Rich on Twitter @mrichdelgazette.