Over the course of his career, Allen Perry has been known as a coach who wins with the emphasis that he puts on defense.
Throughout the regular season, and especially during its district run, the Wheelersburg Pirates’ volleyball program has done nothing but put a necessary emphasis on defensive play, as one can see from its 23-2 overall record and 66-11 overall margin in sets.
And after rolling through Coal Grove (25-8, 25-5, 25-13), North Adams (25-21, 25-18, 21-25, 25-19), and Piketon (25-20, 25-15, 25-22) by a 9-1 overall mark in sectional and district action, Wheelersburg will have to continue to use its standout defensive play, and bring its ‘A’ game of all A games when the Lady Pirates take on the Tuscarawas Valley Lady Trojans on Thursday evening inside the walls of Logan High School at 7:30 p.m. in a Division III, Region 11 matchup.
Tuscarawas Valley, who holds an overall record of 26-0 on the season, is ranked as the No. 2 overall team in the Division III state rankings. The Lady Trojans, who have five players with attack percentages above .440, haven’t even lost a single set all season long (71-0) during its own run to the Division III Regional Semifinals.
Overall, the senior trio of Alexis Gilland (363 kills, .567 attack percentage, 46 aces, 96 percent serving mark), Abbi Gillson (204 kills, .553 attack percentage) and Kierrah Stewart (157 kills, .449 attack percentage, 89 aces, 95.9 percent serving mark) all bring multiple skills to the table, while freshman Arora Levengood (706 assists, 28 aces, 95.5 percent serving mark) heads the attack from her setting position.
However, Wheelersburg’s big key all season — the defensive side of the floor — is where the Lady Pirates hold the advantage.
In fact, six ‘Burg players have over 100 digs on the year, including Ellie Ruby, who eclipsed the 1,000-dig mark for her career against Raceland (Ky.) on Sept. 25. Ruby’s 484 dives lead the team, while Mallory Bergan (191 digs, 59 blocks), Alli McQuay (155), Mia Darnell (149), Abbie Kallner (135), and Kaylee Darnell (106) all have contributed heavily from the defensive end of the floor throughout the season. Adyson Rase added 20 critical dives of her own combined against North Adams and Piketon during Wheelersburg’s critical Division III, Waverly III District Championship-winning run to further solidify that area of the floor.
Offensively, McQuay (254 kills, .283 attack percentage) and Bergan (219 kills, .356 attack percentage) have been huge for Wheelersburg throughout the year on the frontline, and could very well go off again against a Tuscarawas Valley roster that doesn’t have a single individual with more than 191 digs on its roster.
McQuay, who also has 46 aces on a 94.9 percent serving tilt, leads a strong serving group that includes Ruby (35 aces), Darnell (29 aces, 95.5 percent serving mark) and Kallner (22 aces, 97.3 percent serving mark). The latter has also sparked the offensive frontline with her ball placement, garnerning 585 assists to head up the Lady Pirates’ rock-solid offensive attack.
With a victory in Thursday evening’s affair, Wheelersburg would play the winner of either Chillicothe Southeastern or Williamsport Westfall on Saturday afternoon at 2 p.m. in Logan.
Reach Kevin Colley at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930 OR on Twitter @KColleyPDT