July 23, 2016

Mostly sunny

Volleyball: Grizzlies dominate at net, defense to secure crown

BARBERTON — Peyton Booth, Jodi Johnson, Madison Gilger and Haley Witschey fired rockets from the outside.

Ciera Koons and Andrea Beavers controlled the middle.

Wadsworth’s Cierra Koons hits against Medina’s Leah Svoboda. (GAZETTE PHOTO BY RON SCHWANE)

And Rachel Pressley, Maria Sansonetti and Erin Zita took care of everything else.

Thanks to their combined efforts, Wadsworth’s volleyball team is headed back to the Sweet 16.

The top-seeded Grizzlies amassed 68 kills and 30 blocks in just four games Thursday, allowing them to win their second straight Barberton Division I District championship with a 25-21, 25-17, 21-25, 25-16 victory over second-seeded Medina.

Wadsworth (22-3) is the second team in Medina County history to make back-to-back regional appearances — joining the 1983-84 Black River Pirates — and extended its winning streak to 14 straight matches over six-plus weeks.

“Winning districts last year was an amazing feeling, but it also made me hope that we could all experience it again,” smiling Grizzlies coach Jill Klingbeil said. “I can tell you that both of them feel equally awesome.

“This was another one of our main goals for this season, so I couldn’t be happier for our girls right now.”

Wadsworth will play the host Explorers in the Hudson Regional semifinals Wednesday. Hudson swept Kent Roosevelt 25-18, 26-24, 29-27 in the Stow District final.

If the Grizzlies play like they did against the Bees (13-10), however, there might not be a team in Northeast Ohio that can stop them.

Johnson and Booth shared match-high honors with 16 kills, while Koons had 13 and Gilger fired a career-high 12. They were doubly effective because Pressley (27 assists) and Sansonetti (14) kept switching up their sets to keep Medina off-balance.

“Our setters were amazing tonight, feeding it perfectly and putting the ball exactly where we needed them to,” Booth said. “I also can’t say enough about our middles and right-side blocking, who were incredible.

“Honestly, we just went out and played our game. We knew Medina was a very good team, but our focus was completely on what we had to do to win.”

Specifically, that focus was blocking and digging to the best of their ability.

Wadsworth wound up shattering the county postseason record for blocks, with Koons leading the way with nine. Beavers had seven, Gilger made six and Booth and sophomore Haley Witschey added three.

The Grizzlies’ back row was just as good, as Johnson recorded a career-high 37 digs and Booth and Zita rung up 23 apiece.

“We’ve been working a lot on our blocking, so we wanted to get as many touches as we could at the net,” Johnson said. “If Medina got it by us, we knew our back row would make the play, so we felt pretty confident either way.”

The Bees didn’t wilt under the pressure in their second district final in three years, only committing 16 errors in the first three games, but couldn’t match Wadsworth’s firepower.

Senior outside hitter Ksenia Klue paced Medina with 14 kills and 18 digs, while junior setter Ashley Pavlescak had 26 assists, 15 digs and six kills.

Senior middle hitter Carmen DeRose added six kills and three aces, and junior outside hitter Jess Sency had seven kills and 17 digs for the Bees, who lost the kill battle by 26 and were outblocked by 16.

“Wadsworth is a great team and has a chance to be state champions — and I hope they are,” Medina coach Connie Daum said. “We had the right game plan and we executed what we wanted, but they played extremely well and showed why they were the No. 1 seed.

“But for our team, we’ll always remember this season and this tournament run. I am so proud of these girls and am so lucky to have been their coach.”

Outside hitter Justine Wright (5 kills, 4 blocks), middle hitter Leah Svoboda (4 kills, 3 blocks) and libero Erika Grumbach (17 digs) also contributed key points for the Bees, who beat the Grizzlies on Aug. 24 at the Walsh Jesuit Quad.

The only other teams to knock off Wadsworth this season are Strongsville and Amherst Steele, who each won district titles Thursday.

“We wanted this win so bad tonight knowing we lost to Medina the last time,” Gilger said. “Now that we’re going to regionals, our goal is to just keep doing what we’ve been doing — and see how far it can take us.”

Contact Brian Dulik at brisports@hotmail.com.