Freshmen carried Big Walnut in the middle sets, but seniors carried it through to a 3-1 victory over visiting Olentangy in OCC-Capital Division girls volleyball action on Thursday night in Sunbury.
“It was a big win tonight, the kids played super,” Big Walnut coach Ron Lehman said. “I was really proud of the effort. I felt like that was the best we’ve played and we’re starting to put it together.”
After a night of comebacks by both teams, neither could gain a big advantage in the fourth set. Zoe Miller’s ace tied the score at 17 and neither team led by more than a point until Jessica Ruffing’s kill sealed a 25-23 victory for Big Walnut.
“Jess had a rough start and she finally got going,” Lehman said. “She really stepped up.”
Ruffing, a senior, led with 14 kills and fellow senior Tiffany Soisson added 13 to help the Eagles to a 27-25, 25-20, 23-25, 25-23 win.
Big Walnut (7-5, 6-2) trailed 14-7 early in the first set before scoring nine of the next 10 points to tie it at 16. Led by a pair of kills by Soisson, the Eagles eventually won the set 27-25.
“We just switched (Soisson’s) position,” Lehman said. “She was playing outside — we moved her back to the middle and she’s played that in the past. It made a big difference. We were kind of struggling in the middle and she gave us some big hits.”
Freshman Machaela Podraza scored four points, three by kills and another with an ace, during a 9-0 run in the second set that carried the Eagles to a 25-20 win.
“She’s really talented,” Lehman said. “She’s actually a setter, but since we have a senior setter, we’re having her play the opposite and she’s doing a really good job … really picking up (the new position). Plus, she puts a tremendous block and her serve is tough. She’s really coming along and really helping us out.”
Olentangy (8-4, 6-2) came back in the third set, trailing by a 14-7 margin before winning 25-23 to avoid a straight-set loss. Olivia Margolies and senior Sarah Hansel started the rally with back-to-back kills.
Hansel and junior Megan Cochran combined for a block to give Olentangy a lead before Margolies blocked one of her own to finish the set. Cochran led Olentangy with six blocks.
“(Cochran’s) actually hurt,” Olentangy coach Michelle Mimna said. “Her shoulder’s hurt, so she’s not swinging, she’s tipping. She knows that the contribution that she can make right now is on the blocking end. She jumps really well because she’s undersized.”
Margolies led Olentangy with 12 kills and Hansel added 10 kills and four blocks. Senior Sophie Fritz set a career high with 36 assists while Miller had 21 digs.
The win allowed Big Walnut to stay in the hunt for the OCC-Capital title and the loss put Olentangy in a second-place tie with the Eagles.
“We knew we had to win tonight to stay in it,” Lehman said. “If we win out, we’re great…if we don’t, we’re in trouble.”
“For the last four years, we’ve been in position to win the league and we’ve won it once,” Mimna said. “We’ve finished second three other times.”
Liberty 3, Central Crossing 0
Liberty picked up a solid Senior Night win, handling visiting Central Crossing in three sets Thursday in Powell.
The Patriots, who improved to 11-1 with the win, won the first set 25-7 before sealing the deal with back-to-back wins of 25-21 and 25-9.
Shelby Stewart led the attack with 13 kills. She also had a team-best five blocks in the win. Other standouts included Lauren Hofer (11 digs) and Maddie Fogg (13 assists).
Also: Orange 3, New Albany 0; Marion Harding 3, Buckeye Valley 0.
Buckeye Valley finished the regular season with a flourish, handling visiting Jonathan Alder 4-1 on Thursday’s Senior Night.
Kasey Morris, one of the seniors honored before the showdown, won the match of the night at first singles. After taking the first set by a 6-1 margin, Morris lost the second 4-6 to set up a third — a set she trailed 0-5 before winning seven straight games to seal the deal.
Other BV winners included senior Arianna Phrakornkham (6-2, 6-0 at second singles), junior Alexis Poulton (6-2, 6-2 at third singles) and seniors Jo Ann Leienberger and Brienna Garber (6-2, 6-0 at first doubles).
Big Walnut 5, Westerville North 0
The Golden Eagles swept away the host Warriors Thursday, winning with relative ease on all five courts.
Macie Kercsmar and Lindsey Hill won 6-0, 6-2 at first and second singles, respectively, while Sara Althauser nabbed a 6-0, 6-2 win at third singles.
In doubles action, Anna Faust and Hannah Moroz teamed up to win 6-0, 6-2 at first doubles while Lexie Kirkpatrick and Abby Friend won the most competitive match of the night, 6-2, 7-6 at second doubles.
Caleb Sayre cleaned up a Luke Bean shot, collecting the rebound and firing it into the back of the net in the 68th minute to help Liberty salvage a 1-1 tie against host Westerville Central Thursday evening.
Bradley Annis scored the Warhawks’ lone goal in the first half while Tommy Hlinka and Jeremy Karr combined to make eight saves in the Patriot goal.
Follow Michael Rich on Twitter @mrichdelgazette.