The Olentangy Orange volleyball team has shown a lot of growth over the past three seasons with league titles all three years and back-to-back district titles in the last two.
And, despite a 25-15, 26-24, 25-11 loss to juggernaut Dublin Coffman in the Division I regional semifinal Thursday night at Worthington Kilbourne, Pioneer coach Katie Duy saw it as another step in the process of getting her team to the promised land.
“I just want to keep taking steps forward and I think this year we did,” Duy said. “I think we played some tough competition and won some big matches in different situations and continued to gain confidence.
“I think we took a big step forward and I hope we continue to take steps forward. That’s all you can ask for. (The team has) done a great job of buying in and listening and continuing to stay hungry and push themselves. The program is where it is because of the kids.”
She saw signs of how good her team can be in the second set when junior Taylor Metzler had five kills and an ace during an 8-2 run that gave the Pioneers (21-4) a 19-17 lead.
Megan McCollum was a key on the back side.
“(Metzler is) a gamer … she has no fear at all. That’s a special quality to have,” Duy said. “Megan McCollum was just busting her butt on the back side. We have a good team, but it was really good to see those two in particular really (fight).”
Trailing 23-21, the Shamrocks (24-2) closed 5-1 on a Riley Wagoner kill and a Jacy Sheldon block to take the set.
Coffman’s been here before with 11 straight district titles and is one win away from a third consecutive state final four appearance.
“Coffman’s amazing – they’re a great team,” Duy said. “But (Orange) is a great team, too. It’s not easy to do, but we’ve been telling them all year to go out there with confidence.”
Duy took solace in making the Rocks sweat, particularly in that second set.
“(We) went with a better mindset in the second set,” she said. “We have nothing to lose. I think it helped (us) get a little more confidence and be a lot more competitive.”
Wagoner led with 20 kills, McKenzie Curry had eight and Sheldon added six for the Rocks, who won a matchup against Orange Aug. 29 in straight sets.
“They played very well … that’s a great team,” Duy said. “Both times we’ve played them – they’ve played very, very good volleyball. It felt like every time we had some momentum going, (they) had Riley Wagoner come up with a big kill. She’s district Player of the Year. It’s hard to stop a kid like that.”
Coffman plays St. Francis DeSales in the regional final Saturday at Kilbourne at 2 p.m.
Big Walnut 3, Dover 1
The Golden Eagles set the tone with a convincing first-set win and, after losing the second, won the third and fourth to secure a Division II regional semifinal win over Dover Thursday night in Zanesville.
“We had a great start,” Big Walnut coach Ron Lehman said. “We slipped a little in the second set, but came back in the third and fourth. We fought through adversity to win it.”
The Eagles looked poised to cruise into the regional final after winning the first set 25-12. Dover battled back, though, taking the second 26-24, but BW won the third and fourth by respective scores of 25-16 and 25-22 to seal the deal.
Mac Podraza finished with a team-best nine kills to go with four aces, Kaley Rammelsberg finished with eight kills and Emma Urhammer had seven kills in the win.
Next up, Big Walnut will take on Granville — a 3-0 winner over New Philadelphia — in Saturday’s regional final back at Zanesville.