By Rob Kiser
FAIRBORN — The Zoarville Tuscarawas Valley volleyball team came into Friday’s Division III state semifinal at the Nutter Center with Versailles having not dropped a set in 28 matches — and didn’t give up 20 points in a set until the final set of the regional final.
Versailles came in with six losses.
And while the Trojans were state runnerup a year ago and making their third straight trip to the Final Four — and Versailles was making its first appearance since 2014 — it felt like Versailles was the favorite from the start.
And the Lady Tigers showed why in a 25-17, 25-22, 22-25, 25-21 win to set up an All-MAC state championship match at 3 p.m. today, with the Tigers, 23-6, taking on 28-1 Coldwater, the top-ranked team in the state.
Coldwater defeated Independence in three sets in the day’s first match.
“There is no question it is a step up in competition when we come here,” Tuscarawas Valley coach Cortney Goodwin said. “Versailles is an outstanding team and they play great competition. We don’t see those kind of teams — other than scrimmages — there isn’t competition like that in our area.”
But, the Tigers knew any team in the Final Four is a worthy opponent and were taking nothing for granted.
“It feels good to beat a team like that,” senior setter Ellen Peters said. “That is a great accomplishment — to not lose a set all year. Kudos to them for being able to do that.”
But, Versailles delivered an early message that this day was going to be different for the Trojans.
After four sideouts to start the match, Danielle Winner had a kill for a fifth one.
Then Winner rotated to the service line served three straight points and Versailles took a 6-2 lead.
Lindsey Winner had a kill, Danielle Winner had an ace and a Tuscarawas Valley attack error finished the run.
Versailles extended the lead to 16-9 and 18-12 and went on to give the Trojans their first loss of a set all season when Danielle Winner had two kills at 23-17.
“We got off to a great start in the first set and were able to finish it off,” Bruggeman said. “That was good to see.”
The second set was a complete reversal at the start.
Led by the hitting of Alexis Gilland, the Trojans took a 7-2 lead lead.
“What an amazing player,” Bruggeman said of Gilliland. “She really gave them a spark.”
But with Tuscarawas Valley leading 18-12, the most pivotal point in the match came.
After an attack error by the Trojans, Danielle Winner served five straight points.
It started with a back-row kill from Kate Stammen, followed by a kill by Lindsey Winner. Three Tusarawas Valley errors and it was tied 18-18.
“I think we just didn’t play our game today,” Goodwin said. “We had to many mistakes. You can’t do that and expect to win at this level.”
Another kill from Lindsey Winner tied the match at 19 and started a three-point Versailles run.
Elizabeth Ording and Lindsey Winner followed with kills to make it 21-19 and force a Trojans timeout.
But, Tuscarawas Valley could never completely stem the momentum.
A Trojans serve sailed long at 23-22.
And Kami McEldowney served set point, with a block by Danielle Winner and Ording finishing it.
“I just felt like we played with confidence all match,” Ording said.
Versailles nearly had another big comeback in the third set.
After trailing 10-4, they got as close as 23-22 on an Ellen Peters ace, before the Trojans finished off the set.
“I know our team is resilient,” Goodwin said. “It wouldn’t have surprised me if we came back and won three straight sets.”
But, Versailles was having none of it.
“For sure, the Marion Local match came to mind,” Ellen Peters said of a match Versailles rallied from two sets down to win.
With the Tigers leading just 15-14, a run was started by an Ording kill, followed by a Payton Berger kill.
After a Tuscarawas Valley point, Ellen Peters had a kill on a Stammen assist and Danielle Winer had a kill to make it 19-15.
The Trojans rallied to tie the match at 20, but Versailles would finish it with five of the last six points.
Mallory Marshal had two kills in the run and Lindsey Winner and Ording combined on a block.
At 24-21, libero Kami McEldowney watched a Tuscarawas Valley attack sail long to end the match.
“I felt like Versailles was much more aggressive at the net,” Goodwin said. “They were swining for kills on every point and I just didn’t feel like we were.”
Ording led the Lady Tiger hitters with 16 kills, while Danielle Winner added 15 and Mallory Marshal had 11.
Lindsey Winner had six blocks, while Ording, Danielle Winner and Marshal all had three.
Ellen Peters dished out 39 assists.
Kami McEldowney led the defense with 27 digs, while Stammen and Caitlin McEldowney had 13 each and Cassie Peters added 12.
For the Trojans, Gilliand had 24 kills and 12 digs.
Kierrah Stewart had 10 kills and Arora Levengood had 35 assists.
Stewart and Jenna Frankls led the defense with 18 digs each, while Sage Peters added 14.
Now it is on to the final challenge, Coldwater.
“I am excited about it,” Bruggeman said. “We play in a great league. I know Nikki (coach Nikki Etzler). I played club (volleyball) when they were there. I love competing against them.”
It is what MAC volleyball is all about.
Rob Kiser is Sports Editor for the Daily Call. He can be reached at (937) 451-3334.
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