WHEELERSBURG — In the vast majority of cases, good all-around play usually leads to a resounding victory.
On Thursday evening, that fact, as it had been for the first six contests preceding a contest between the Wheelersburg Pirates and the West Senators, resulted in another huge victory for the Pirates’ volleyball program as ‘Burg defeated West in straight sets, 3-0 (25-14, 25-10, 25-5) on Thursday in Wheelersburg during an SOC II match between the two programs.
For Allen Perry, the victory, and the manner in which the overall result came about, was quite pleasing to the Pirates’ first-year head coach.
“We were really focused coming into today, and we’ve kind of been on a hot streak here lately,” Perry said. “It’s unfortunate that West is going through so many injuries. I’ve been through that before and I know how hard it is when you’re depleted and you don’t have enough backups. West fought with what they had, and I believe that we did what we needed to do tonight in order to come out with the victory.”
As for Brittany Sessor, it was tough sledding for a West roster that struggled to get off of the ground floor due to a depleted roster that has seen a third of its members go down with an injury of some sort.
“We did the best that we could to put girls in spots where they could succeed with what was available,” Sessor said. “The girls got in there and tried, but it’s really hard to come into this sport, which is such a quick sport, and think quickly, especially when you’re out of position. I can’t fault the girls for our personnel issues.”
From the outset, Wheelersburg proved to have the firepower that was necessary for the victory as Alli McQuay and Mallory Bergan starred early and often in the opening set of action. In fact, the pair had a hand in each of the first six points that the Lady Pirates scored — with Bergan collecting two kills and a block and McQuay adding two aces, a kill, and an assisted block — to allow Wheelersburg to take a 6-2 advantage early in the first set.
Then, McQuay, along with Ellie Ruby, proceeded to show off their backline skills in allowing the Lady Pirates to take home the first set. Ruby, as a matter of fact, collected three straight points from serve at one point to allow Wheelersburg to open up the gap to a double-digit advantage, and McQuay, a talented sophomore who collected 19 service points, seven digs, five kills and three aces on the evening, finished off the performance with a point from serve and a kill to allow the Lady Pirates to take home the first set.
“Alli kind of got struck in the back row of our rotation, so she didn’t get to show much of her offense,” Perry said. “However, she’s a good defensive player as well, and she did a great job of serving from the backline.”
To make matters worse for West, Bricker — who notched a kill in her limited playing time — fell victim to an ankle injury toward the end of the first set. The injury proved to be one that Bricker wouldn’t return from, which forced West to replace what Sessor referred to as the team’s “hustler.”
“We really hope that the injury is not serious,” Sessor said of Bricker. “She’s got a lot of heart and a lot of spirit. She’s always going after the ball. As soon as she went down, we kind of lost that presence on the floor. She keeps everybody going in terms of that hustle.”
After collecting a pair of kills from McQuay and Kaylee Darnell early on in the second set to take a 9-2 advantage, Wheelersburg was able to open up a commanding lead thanks to the play of Abbie Kallner, who was able to record assists to five different Lady Pirates (Kaylee Darnell, Bergan, McQuay, Ruby, and Adyson Rase) in the second set as two combined runs of 13-0 allowed Wheelersburg to shoot out to the lead. Kallner then fittingly closed out the second set with a kill of her own to give the Lady Pirates a solid 2-0 lead in the match.
“Abbie does a fantastic job of spreading the ball to all of the girls,” Perry said. “She really thinks. She’s really cerebral and thinks ahead of the play. She knows who’s going to be where, who’s hot, and who’s going to score me points. That’s what you’ve got to have out of a setter. She’s doing a fantastic job.”
In the third set, however, it was West that responded with the opening salvo. Behind the impressive play of Molly Taylor, Abbi Pack, and Mackenzie Newland, the Lady Senators were able to jump out to a 3-0 lead early on in the third frame of play.
“Abbi and Mackenzie had some good plays on the frontline,” Sessor said. “I was proud of that. As for Molly, she always works hard on the backline. She’s a consistent presence for us.”
However, a fully healthy and deep Wheelersburg roster proved to simply be too much for West to keep up with, and the stellar play of Ruby, especially in the third set, didn’t help West’s matters. At one point, Ruby collected five service points in a row — and seven in the third set alone — in allowing the Lady Pirates to go on a blistering 13-0 spurt. The senior standout also finished with 19 service points in addition to 17 digs, nine aces, and a perfect 100 percent service reception rate on the evening.
“Ellie’s short serve was on tonight,” Perry said. “She was really impressive all night long. She just kept placing the ball right where she was asked to place it. We have some good spot-servers, and Ellie’s certainly one of them.”
Then, after Ruby concluded her serving exploits, Bergan continued to terrorize on the frontline as the sophomore collected three kills and a block en route to not only collecting 10 kills for the match, but allowing the Lady Pirates to close the match on a 25-2 spurt en route to the sweep.
In addition to the complete efforts from Bergan, McQuay, and Ruby, Mia Darnell finished with 14 service points and two aces for Wheelersburg, who improved to a perfect 7-0 on the season and 6-0 in SOC II play. The Lady Pirates have won an astonishing 21 of the 22 sets that they’ve played in 2017 — a mark that will be put to the test on Saturday when Wheelersburg plays in the Alexander Invitational in Albany.
“We’re going to see what we’re made of at Alexander on Saturday,” Perry said. “The field is deep. We play Trimble in the first round, and then you’ve got Clay, Portsmouth, and Nelsonville-York, which are three formidable opponents, and Alexander — the latter of whom is ranked No. 8 in the state — in the tournament. It’s loaded. We’re going to be playing some really tough teams.”
As for Sessor, the loss simply means that West will have to keep putting away in order to improve and find a winning formula in the coming matches ahead.
“We’re just going to have to figure it out,” Sessor said. “We’ll have to figure out where to put people in a way where they can be most effective. The big issue right now is overcoming and problem-solving.”
Reach Kevin Colley at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930 OR on Twitter @ColleyKevin7