SOUTH WEBSTER — Having played just two matches so far in 2015, the Wheelersburg volleyball team still has a few kinks to work out. But Thursday evening, the Pirates proved that when they have everything clicking, there are few teams that can keep up with them.
Wheelersburg (2-0, 2-0 SOC II) needed two sets to get everything in order, but was still able to come away with a four-game win over South Webster, 25-22, 22-25, 25-17, 25-9.
“This is only our second game and I have a lot of players than haven’t played varsity before,” Wheelersburg volleyball coach Kendra Coleman said. “We’re still trying to jell, we’re still trying to mesh.”
The Jeeps (1-2, 1-1 SOC II) took advantage of Wheelersburg’s disjointed play early in the match, leading by as many as four points midway through the first set. The Jeeps’ Mikaylah Belford came up with a big service run to give South Webster the early lead.
Belford finished Thursday’s match with a team-high 12 service points and seven kills.
“She’s quiet and little. Nobody would expect it, but she just plays smart. I thought that she played the game of her life,” South Webster volleyball coach Darcee Claxon said.
But the Jeeps’ lead would quickly disappear, thanks to senior Sydney Holden, a first team All-SOC selection from a season ago. Her serves sparked a quick three-point swing to tie the set at 18. Later, with the score tied a 22, reigning SOC II Player of the Year Marley Hanzel served the Pirates to a game one victory with another three-point swing.
“Big hitters are going to get their kills. It’s how you recover, how do you react from that,” Claxon said.
Her Jeeps would more than recover in the second set. Though the Pirates quickly jumped out to an 8-3 lead, an inspired effort from Lauren Hill. She recorded an ace and quickly followed it up with a kill to help narrow the deficit. A Belford kill later, and the Pirate lead was down to one at 9-8.
Though strong service runs from Holden and Kasey Bergan got the Pirate lead back to five, South Webster wasn’t ready to roll over. After a Jeep kill, Hill again took over behind the line. From there, Webster would take six of the next seven points and retake the lead at 21-20. Six points later, Hill came up with a block to clinch the game for South Webster at 25-22.
“Nobody in this gym, in the entire SOC, thinks that anyone can touch ‘Burg. They are loaded. They have a ton of firepower,” Claxon said. “No one expects you to win, but man it feels good when you get one in there.”
Hill finished the match with four kills and four aces.
Inspired by their game two win, the Jeeps were able to hang with Wheelersburg for the first half of the third set. But with the set tied a 10, a Webster error gave the serve to the Pirates — and Holden. She rattled off seven straight Pirate points, including an ace and a kill of her own, to completely swing the momentum of the match.
“I know that if times are tough, I can tell (Holden and Hanzel) ‘Let’s go.’ and they’ll really do what they need to get things going,” Coleman said.
When the dust settled, the Pirates had pieced together an 11-2 run to take a commanding 21-12 lead in game four. Though the Jeeps came up with a 4-0 run a few points later, it proved to be too little, too late, and the Pirates clinched game four 25-17.
“We just kind of self-destructed,” Claxon said.
Holden finished the match with 17 kills and 14 points.
In the decisive fourth game, the Pirates simply handed Hanzel the ball and watched her work. She took over the serve with the Pirates leading 7-5, and rattled off 10 straight points. At one point during the run, she recorded five aces in the span of six points.
“We’ve worked hard on our serves and being more aggressive. (Hanzel) has really worked hard at that and she’s really done well, so I expect that out of her,” Coleman said.
Hanzel finished the match as Wheelersburg’s leader in kills (18), points (18) and aces (five). Brooklyn Sullivan led the way for South Webster, with 22 kills and three aces.
Playing in just her second game as the Pirates libero, sophomore Ellie Ruby was all over the floor and recorded a team-high 12 digs.
“I tell you what, she is a hustler,” Coleman said. “She’s quick. She’s not scared to go. I’m really impressed with her.”
South Webster will take the floor again on Saturday, when they travel to Unioto for a tri-match tournament.
“I wish we hadn’t ended like that. We worked so hard, and it kind of leaves a sour taste in our mouth,” Claxon said. “But we still played great. I thought we executed our game plan really well in those first two sets, now we have to find a way to finish.”
As for Wheelersburg, they take the floor again on Tuesday when they travel to Minford.
Reach Alex Hider at 740-353-3101 ext. 1931 or on Twitter @PDTSportsWriter