BARBERTON — With their season and prep volleyball careers on the line, Ksenia Klue and Leah Svoboda made sure Medina played on in the tournament.
The talented seniors combined for 16 kills in the final two games Tuesday, rallying the Bees to a 20-25, 25-15, 21-25, 25-19, 15-7 victory over Highland in the Barberton Division I District semifinals.
Outside hitter Klue had six of her team-high 19 kills in the fourth game, while middle hitter Svoboda collected four of her 15 kills and three of her career-best 10 blocks in the decisive fifth.
Thanks to their clutch efforts, No. 2 seed Medina (13-9) will play top-seeded Wadsworth for the district championship Thursday night.
“Losing was not an option once we got to the fourth game,” Svoboda said. “We knew what we had to do better. It was just a matter of going out and playing that way.
“We had worked too hard all year to have everything end right there. I’m so pumped about the way it turned out.”
The third-seeded Hornets (16-8) had the Bees on the ropes in the fourth game, taking an 11-9 lead on junior middle hitter Mallory Adams’ 16th kill. Adams finished the contest with a match-high 20 kills and one hitting error, along with five blocks.
Medina, though, reclaimed the momentum as Klue and junior setter Ashley Pavlescak began spraying kills around the court. Junior outside hitter Jess Sency put the Bees ahead for good at 15-14 with a kill from the left side, while Svoboda’s block/kill at 18-14 appeared to take the steam out of Highland.
“We had to switch it up between the outside and the middle because Highland had such a good game plan defending the net,” said Medina coach Connie Daum, whose squad was outblocked 21-12. “Once we started running a more aggressive, fast offense for Leah and Ksenia, things really started to take off.”
Klue provided kills on two of the Bees’ final three points in the fourth game, then started the fifth with a rocket down the line. Svoboda made consecutive blocks to extend Medina’s lead to 5-1 in the finale, while senior middle hitter Carmen DeRose fired back-to-back aces to give them an 8-1 advantage.
“We did not want this to be our last game,” said Klue, who had four kills in the fifth. “We’ve had so much fun playing together, we did not want this to be the last time we were on the court as one. No one was going to let anyone else down when our backs were against the wall, and we didn’t.”
Following a pair of Hornets timeouts, Svoboda delivered a hammer down the middle to push the Bees to match point, which Sency subsequently scored with a kill from just inside the right antenna.
Pavlescak amassed 13 kills, 31 assists and 18 digs in just her second postseason match for Medina, which advanced to its second district final in three years. Senior libero Erika Grumbach made 25 digs, Sency had eight kills and junior Emma Constance added two aces and four assists.
“Once we forced a fifth game, I knew the girls would give everything they had and find a way to win the match,” Daum said. “Early on, the jitters seemed to be there, but once we lost the third game, their focus was crystal clear.
“I cannot put into words how proud I am of them. They have done everything I’ve asked of them all season and are such great kids, they truly deserve to play for the district championship.”
So did Highland, which completed its winningest season since 2000 with a fantastic performance for coach Jeff McDivitt.
In addition to Adams’ offensive explosion, senior middle hitter Tori Maglione collected 11 kills and a school postseason-record nine blocks for the Hornets. Adams had eight kills in the first game, four in the second and six in the fourth while constantly moving from the middle to the outside.
Sophomore outside hitter Marlee Profitt chipped in eight kills and four rejections for Highland, which also received 16 assists from junior setter Nikki Tecco. Junior outside hitter Angel Redman added three kills and four assists, junior setter Emmi Esker dished out 14 helpers and senior outside hitter Morgan Kasulones had five kills.
“Overall, I thought our girls executed brilliantly tonight, and I’m so happy for the season they’ve had,” McDivitt said. “Their effort was tremendous, but I wouldn’t have expected anything less, given how hard they’ve worked all year.
“It just came down to Game 5 — a short, 15-point game — and Medina got off to a great start that we couldn’t quite recover from. Both teams played great — they really did — and it was fun for me as a former player to be part of it.”
Highland, which played without injured outside hitters Allie Branco (concussion) and Maddie Petrilla (torn anterior cruciate ligament), is 30-17 over the last two seasons. It last posted 30 wins in a two-year span in 2000-01 under Medina County Hall of Fame coach Jill Bouton.
• Svoboda’s 10 blocks equaled the Medina postseason record set by Lauren Zakes at the 2006 Midview Sectional against North Olmsted. She is the seventh county player in the rally scoring era to reach double-digits in rejections in a match.
Contact Brian Dulik at email@example.com.