The Spartans used both effectively against Wheelersburg, winning another district title with a 25-15, 25-8, 25-16 victory. The Lady Pirates finish as district runners-up for the second straight year, with Alexander winning last year's matchup in the district finals in five sets.
“We played a very tough opponent,” said Lady Pirates coach Carol Bialkowski. “They are ranked in the state, undefeated, and when you come in against a good team like that, you have to play at that level. I am not sure that we matched their level of play tonight.”
The first game appeared to set the tone for another five-game match, as after the Spartans jumped out to a 5-1 lead, Wheelersburg would score four straight points to tie the game at 5. The teams would trade points for most of the early going, but Alexander's Jami Turrill would change the team's fortunes quickly.
Scoring seven kills in the first game alone, Turrill, Betsy Irwin and Keilee Guthrie would use strong net play down the stretch to go out to a 1-0 lead. Irwin had three kills in the first game, and Guthrie added two kills and block. Wheelersburg got two kills from Taylan Floyd, and a kill apiece by Tori Williams and Ali Conley, a block by Brittany Meenach and an ace by Jessica Blanton.
“We started off well, but Alexander does a nice job serving and started picking holes, which is an obvious strategy, and it worked,” said Bialkowski. “I am proud of my kids for hanging tough, but they were a tough team.”
The Spartans would continue that play in the second game, but added some solid serving to the mix. Alexander had nine aces in the game, including four in a row by Whitney Smith. Guthrie and Laura Shimko had two each. Conley had two kills for the Lady Pirates.
The third game was a return to the first, as both teams traded points in the early going. Wheelersburg tied the game at 14 midway through the game, but the Spartans scored eight straight points to lead 22-14 before putting the match away.
Williams, Blanton, Floyd, Meenach and Conley had one kill each for the Lady Pirates.
For the match, Turrill, Guthrie, Smith and Betsy Irwin combined for 26 kills. Coach Brad Jeffers said that was another example of his kids, especially the captains, stepping up at the right time, most notably in the serving game.
“They made sure that we had a good week of practice, they were loud on the floor and there was a lot of good communication and things going on,” he said. “I think that was probably the key to our win tonight. Every match we play, we are the smallest team. Rather than use it as an excuse, we take pride in the fact that we are little, but we can still play.”
JOSH HICKLE can be reached at (740) 353-3101, ext. 241.