MINFORD — They say that the early bird gets the worm.
Or, in this case, these early birds got themselves a sectional championship.
With an early start to Saturday’s Division III sectional title tilt against the visiting Chesapeake Panthers, the Minford Falcons flew past the Panthers in only an hour of actual match time — sweeping Chesapeake 25-14, 25-11 and 25-13 to capture their second sectional volleyball championship in the past three seasons.
With the victory, Minford raised its record to 12-11 and — more importantly — advanced to Wednesday’s Division III district semifinal bout at Waverly High School.
The Falcons face Westfall there, as the Lady Mustangs of the traditionally strong Scioto Valley Conference swept Federal Hocking in another Saturday sectional final.
Match time at Waverly on Wednesday is set for 6 p.m.
While Saturday’s sectional was slated to start at approximately 4 p.m., the affair got under way actually a few minutes early.
It didn’t affect the Falcons at all, as they forced many Chesapeake errors, posted 27 kills with a kill-percentage of 33 — and amounted eight aces, 45 digs, 26 serve-receptions and 22 assists.
Minford coach Rachel Stapleton said Saturday’s contest was a reflection of the Falcons’ improved play late in the regular season.
“We’re playing well. A lot of kids are stepping up and playing better in their positions. We’re getting a lot out of everybody who goes in there and playing good team ball,” she said. “As we transition into the postseason, it seems like we’re coming together and people are playing better. And we’ve been off for a week since we played last Thursday. It’s been a long week of practice and I think the girls were excited to be out and back playing.”
That was an understatement.
Minford raced out to a 9-3 advantage in the opening game, and went on to win 25-14.
The second set was more of the same, as the Panthers were only as close as 2-1 — before the Falcons amassed a dozen of the next 14 points to lead 14-3, en route to their largest lead of the set with the final score of 25-11.
In the third game, the fifth-seeded Panthers played the fourth-seeded Falcons a bit better, and led 1-0 before ties of 1-1 and 3-3.
Minford maintained two-point advantages of 7-5, 8-6, 11-9 and finally 12-10 — before the Falcons roared off with 13 of the final 16 points to put the match away.
The closest the Panthers got to forcing a fourth game was trailing 15-11 after an attack error, but when Minford middle hitter Ally Coriell killed three balls for three consecutive points, it was over.
The Panthers got a point on a lift to get within 18-12, but an attack error, a Mackenzie Watters kill and a Coriell ace extended the advantage to nine (21-12).
A service error was Chesapeake’s final point, as the Falcons finished off the match with the final four markers.
The six-foot four-inch junior Coriell collected a dozen kills, while Cassidy Lebrun landed seven, as the Falcons attempted 82 attacks.
“Ally (Coriell) is a big part of our offense, and sometimes we struggle when she is not in the ballgame, but other people are stepping up and making that difference,” said Stapleton. “A lot of times, we don’t force teams to score their own points. Our errors are their points. We’re trying to eliminate that.”
The Lady Falcons served just as well as they attacked, as they only had two service errors.
Lebrun led in serve-receives with eight, as she and setter Liv Shonkwiler served for three aces while Coriell had two.
Shonkwiler set for 20 assists, while she and libero Maddie Slusher posted a dozen defensive digs.
Lebrun, Slusher and Watters — the Falcons’ three seniors — will be playing in their second district tournament, and will attempt to start out fast again against the high-powered Mustangs.
Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @BoggsSports © 2019 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved