Samantha Rubal led with 10 kills, Sidney Reeder had nine, Taylor Metzler added eight and Carrigan O’Reilly had 37 assists to lead the Orange volleyball team to a Division I district title Saturday afternoon at Franklin Heights High School in Columbus.
“This is the one that we’ve been working for from the very beginning,” Rubal said. “It’s an amazing feeling, especially as a senior just to be able to experience that before I get out.”
Metzler finished off Bishop Watterson in the third set of a 25-23, 25-22, 25-19 win as the Pioneers celebrated their first district title in school history … a celebration that, for awhile, didn’t look like it was going to happen. The team was left standing on the sidewalk outside the school without a ride.
“That was weird,” Rubal said. “We had a spirit bus that was going to come and pick us up, but that didn’t come either. So, we piled in three cars and got here.”
The team arrived 12 minutes prior to the scheduled 1 p.m. start and didn’t have time to get nervous.
“I think it was good,” Orange coach Katie Duy said. “The kids are so young – we have six underclassmen playing out there — and even the upperclassmen, this is the first time they’re playing in a district final. So, I think it was something to get their mind off it.”
It’s something that the team can laugh about now.
“It was kind of funny,” Duy said. “I think it was actually the best thing for them because this is a unique group with a lot of personality and they like to laugh and they like to have a good time. So, it kind of took their mind off the game at hand and made it a little lighter.”
Orange’s meteoric rise began with its first winning season in school history in 2014 when seniors Riley and Rubal were sophomores.
“We never thought that we’d ever win a conference (title) … we never thought any of this was possible,” Riley said. “And then Coach Duy came in and told us that we had all of this talent and all we had to do was work hard and out-compete the other team and control the things that we can control.”
The Pioneers (21-5) tied the school record in wins with last year’s squad. Orange won an OCC title before falling to rival Liberty in the district semifinal in Duy’s first season.
“When I took over this program, it was a .500 program,” she said. “When I walked in the door and saw the underclassmen and then Ashlan and Sam – I knew we could do something great.”
Reilly has been battling a shoulder injury all year. She missed 13 games, including both wins over rival Olentangy and a win at Olentangy Liberty that helped the Pioneers take control of the OCC-Buckeye on their way to a league title.
“It’s amazing to be able to rely on my teammates because they know that I’m not going to be able to play the way that I want to play because I was out for so long,” Riley said. “I’m working right now to build myself up to what I was (before the injury).”
She returned for the Pioneers’ five-set victory over Gahanna Lincoln – Orange’s regional semifinal opponent – which was the second of the team’s current seven-game winning streak.
Reilly got to be a part of this – which was special in and of itself. But, it was also special because of the man standing on the opposite sideline. Watterson coach Max Miller coached her and eight of her teammates as the club director for Mintonette Sports in Lewis Center.
“It was kind of cool because we knew what he was thinking because we’ve worked with him for so long,” Riley said. “We knew the way that he was going to react and that was kind of cool.”
Miller coached Riley, Rubal, Metzler, O’Reilly, Sophie Dahn, Gabi Hinley, Sidney Gossard, Megan McCollum and Brooke Little.
It was also a special victory for Duy, who spent a year as Miller’s assistant and is a coach at Mintonette as well.
“I have the greatest amount of respect for him – he’s a phenomenal coach and they’re a phenomenal program,” she said.
Orange had a straight-set victory at Watterson (14-12) Aug. 29 on its resume already, but the Eagles were missing a key player in setter Josie Vondran.
“I think a lot of people were thrown off by their record,” Duy said. “They had a lot of injuries early and played one of the toughest schedules in the state of Ohio.”
The two battled through three close sets, which the Pioneers led most of the way – though never by more than the six-point lead at the close of the final set.
“I don’t think they’re the most over-powering team,” Duy said. “I’ve always said, ‘your identity needs to be that you have to work harder, you have to be more competitive and to just grind it out’. I think they’ve embraced that.”
McCollum led with 14 digs and Dahn added 13, Hinley led with three aces, and O’Reilly and Rubal had three blocks apiece to lead Orange.
Grace Hetterscheidt led Watterson with 10 kills and a pair of blocks. Vondran led with 28 assists, six digs and two aces, Karlyn Hannewald had eight kills and six digs and Veronica Merkle added seven kills. Kari Mercer and Callie Cloran also had six digs apiece to tie for the team lead.
Orange will face third-seeded Gahanna in the regional semifinal Thursday at 7:30 p.m. at Worthington Kilbourne.
“We’re not done – we are on to the next,” Rubal said.
Delaware Christian 3, Fairfield Christian 0
After five district championship appearances and a handful of runner-up finishes to show for them, the Delaware Christian volleyball team was finally able to bring home the title with a convincing straight-set win over Fairfield Christian in the Division IV showcase Saturday at Westerville Central.
The top-seeded Eagles won the first set 25-17 before winning the second and third by respective scores of 25-20 and 25-13 to seal the deal.
Sarah Rosato and Lyssi Snouffer did the bulk of the damage from the outside, combining for 35 kills (Rosato with a team-best 18 and Snouffer with 17).
Rosato also had four aces while Snouffer complemented her kills with 12 digs.
Other DCS standouts included Mary Kerins, who finished with a team-leading 30 digs; Brianna Blackburn, who closed with a team-best 36 assists to go with nine digs; Anna Fuller, who added 15 digs and five kills; and Abbey Evans, who finished with 14 digs, three kills, two blocks and two aces.
Also: DeSales def. Liberty 25-18, 25-17, 21-25, 25-11 in Division I district final.
Follow Michael Rich on Twitter @mrichdelgazette.