HUDSON — Ciera Koons, Peyton Booth, Maddie Gilger, Andrea Beavers and Erin Zita have already carved out their spot in Medina County volleyball history.
With two district championships and a 45-6 record over the past two seasons, Wadsworth’s five seniors are in uncharted waters — and they’re not done yet.
The Grizzlies (22-3) take on Hudson (19-6) tonight at 7:30 in the Hudson Division I Regional semifinals. The winner will play Jackson or Mayfield on Saturday afternoon for a trip to the state tournament.
“We’re very confident and believe that we can play at Hudson’s level,” middle hitter Koons said. “We’ve watched film on them a couple of times and feel pretty good about our chances.
“I don’t want to sound cocky because we know they’re a very good team, but we’re playing really well right now. Everyone has stepped up their game in the tournament and we’re having a lot of fun.”
Wadsworth enters the Sweet 16 showdown riding a 14-match winning streak and is 20-1 since Aug. 27. Its lone loss in the last two months came at the hands of Midview District champion Amherst Steele.
The Grizzlies’ other 2013 defeats came against Strongsville — the Comets’ opponent tonight in the Brecksville Regional semifinals — and Barberton District finalist Medina.
“Going to regionals last year was incredible, but honestly, it’s even sweeter now because we’re seniors and this is the last time most of us are going to play volleyball,” outside hitter Booth said. “We’re such a close group, we just don’t want it to end.”
The Explorers are led by junior middle hitter Jordan Mackay and senior middle hitter Krissy Mummey, who combined for 32 kills in Wadsworth’s 27-25, 22-25, 27-25 home victory on Sept. 21. Junior setter Alyssa DiSandis and junior libero Sarah Young round out Hudson’s key quintet.
Koons previously played Junior Olympic volleyball with Mackay and will team with Mummey this winter, setting up an intriguing battle of 6-footers at the center of the net.
“Hudson hurt us with their big middles the last time, so that’s definitely a concern,” said Grizzlies coach Jill Klingbeil, who is 86-14 in four years at the school. “At the same time, I believe we’ve gotten a lot better defensively since that match. Our blocking, especially, is as good as it’s been all year right now.”
Koons, outside hitter Gilger and middle hitter Beavers racked up 22 of Wadsworth’s county postseason-record 30 blocks in the district final against Medina.
When the Bees did hit the ball past the front row, Booth, libero Zita and sophomore outside hitter Jodi Johnson took turns making dramatic digs. Their chemistry and communication are first-rate, which one would expect from a core of talent that has been together since the summer of 2012.
“We all pitch in wherever we’re needed on the court,” said Johnson, who had a team-best 14 kills in the first match against the Explorers. “A lot of times, it’s as exciting keeping the ball from hitting the floor as it is coming up with a big kill. They both get everybody fired up.”
Following their initial meeting, Hudson coach Jessica Ciborek praised the Grizzlies for having the fastest offense she has seen. She also expressed hope the teams would play again, only this time inside the Buck Hyser Gymnasium with a spot in the regional final on the line.
Both schools expect to have large student sections in attendance, which should negate much of the Explorers’ home-court advantage. Wadsworth also has an edge in big-match experience, having played a regional contest at Hudson last season against Kenston.
“Ideally, you wouldn’t have a team playing in the regionals in its own gym, but we can’t do anything about that,” Klingbeil said. “We just have to go out and focus on what we need to do. Once the match starts, it won’t matter where it’s at. I can promise you that our girls will be ready to play.”
Contact Brian Dulik at firstname.lastname@example.org.