BARBERTON — Jeff Walck dominated the Suburban League while he was coaching Tallmadge’s volleyball team.
Apparently, that power carried over to his present employer.
Walck’s Massillon Jackson Polar Bears eliminated Wadsworth in surprisingly easy fashion Tuesday, 25-19, 25-22, 25-20 in the Barberton Division I District semifinals.
Second-seeded Jackson (21-3) moves on to face undefeated North Canton Hoover in the district championship, while the Suburban League champion Grizzlies ended their fourth-winningest season ever at 21-3.
“Unfortunately, it just wasn’t our night,” said Wadsworth coach Jill Quayle, whose club was seeded third. “Jackson played very well, extremely well, all the way through. We just couldn’t match them except for a few stretches.”
Grizzlies junior Rachel Jones (team-high 12 kills) was terrific in a losing effort, drawing praise from Quayle for “putting her heart on the floor and having one of her best games offensively. She also was everywhere she needed to be blocking-wise tonight.”
But it was another middle hitter that tipped the balance of power the Polar Bears’ way.
Jackson sophomore Paige Hill, a 6-foot super prospect, amassed 17 kills, seven blocks and just two unforced errors. Wadsworth simply had no answer for her — offensively, defensively or emotionally.
“She’s pretty good for a 15-year-old, don’t you think?” Walck deadpanned. “Seriously, Paige played outstanding tonight and the other girls seemed to feed off her. The more touches she got — hitting or blocking — the better the rest of the team seemed to play.”
The Grizzlies, who hadn’t suffered a three-game sweep since Oct. 13, 2009, never led in the opening game as Jackson seized command. Wadsworth’s final advantage in the second came at 12-11, while its last lead in the third came at 5-4.
Senior outside hitters Julie Bassett (6 kills) and Elliot Georgiadis (4 kills), and senior setter Sarah White (4 kills, 25 assists, 2 blocks, 3 aces) had their moments for the Grizzlies, as did senior libero Elaine Zollinger, but they were severely limited by the Polar Bears’ game plan.
“We prepared in practice to play against Julie Bassett because she is the key to everything Wadsworth does,” Walck revealed. “We even had our most athletic freshman be Julie, so to speak, because we had to be ready for all the things she does.
“We couldn’t stop her from playing great defense, but we could keep them from getting her the ball as much as they would have liked.”
Junior Katie Zito (12 kills, 12 digs), sophomore Kristin Cardwell (31 assists) and junior Ally Furbay (5 kills, 4 blocks) rounded out the stat stuffers for Jackson, which does not have a 12th-grader on their roster.
The Grizzlies have six, including Robyn Rotterschmidt and Megan Crawford, all of whom wrapped up their careers with the tough loss.
“Our seniors will be greatly missed,” Jones said. “They’re a great bunch of girls.
“We did have a really good season, and I hope everyone appreciates that down the road. This is just a tough way to end it.”
Contact Brian Dulik at firstname.lastname@example.org.