DAYTON – Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end.
For the 2019 Wheelersburg Pirates volleyball team, their end just so happened to be on the heels of an improbable comeback which advanced them to Thursday’s Division III state semifinal vs. Independence.
While the Pirates would have liked to advance to Saturday’s Division III state championship game, their efforts fell short in a three-set sweep to the Blue Devils of Independence (25-10, 25-12, 25-12), Thursday, at Wright State University’s Nutter Center in Dayton.
“So proud of our girls,” Wheelersburg coach Allen Perry said following the loss. “It’s been a magical season. This isn’t how we wanted it to end, but that’s a very respectable program that we played against today. I would have liked for us to show a little more than we did today. I remember three years ago when we made it to regionals for the first time, we were a little over-matched against Tusky Valley. We went back and worked at it, so I don’t think you’ve seen the last of us yet.”
The Blue Devils of Independence won the way they’ve won all of this season and their last two seasons which also saw OHSAA state tournament appearances – establishing their lead early, and defending extremely well.
In set one, Independence set the tone early by jumping out to an 18-5 lead. With Macy McNamara leading her team from the service line, the Blue Devils used an 11-0 run from the time they led 7-5 to ultimately take set one 25-10 over the Pirates.
Sets two and three were more of the same – Independence setting the tone with the Pirates scrapping for points.
In each of the sets, Wheelersburg cut the Blue Devils lead to 18-11 and 20-12 respectively, but could not make up the rest of their ground, falling in each set 25-12.
Wheelersburg was led offensively by junior all-Ohio honorable mention Kylee Barney who finished with a team-high nine kills and two block assists.
Senior all-Ohio first team member Alli McQuay finished Thursday’s match with three kills, two block assists, and five digs. Fellow senior and all-Ohio honorable mention Mallory Bergan finished with three kills and 12 digs.
Emily Boggs and Ryleigh Meeker finished with three and two kills respectively.
Junior libero Kaylee Darnell finished with a team-high 16 digs while junior setter Lauren Jolly finished with a team-high 16 assists.
Independence’s Katie Taliaferro paced the Blue Devils offensively with a team-high 15 kills and three block assists.
Setter Abby Avila led the Blue Devils with a team-high 31 assists.
First team all-Ohio senior libero Madelyn Bilinovic led Independence with a team-high 15 digs.
Grace Smotek and Hanna Wilson each finished with eight kills in the Blue Devils state semifinal win.
Following the loss, Wheelersburg will bid farewell to two all-Ohio seniors, Mallory Bergan and Alli McQuay, who have been apart of four straight SOC II titles, three straight district titles, and of course, the school’s first regional championship this season.
“I think they’ve lost five games during their carreers here at Wheelersburg,” Perry said of Bergan and McQuay. “They’ve had a very successful time for us, they’re definitely going to be missed.”
As for what’s next for the Pirates program, with the returning likes of Barney, Boggs, Darnell, Jolly, Meeker, Lyndsay Heimbach, and a cast of other Pirates who will assume bigger roles in the future, Perry expects to see his team succeeding, once again, at the highest level and at the biggest stage.
“I expect for more success from us,” Perry said. “We were a little over-matched today, but it was the same way three years ago in Logan. I expect for us to go back and work, and expect that you’ll see us here again. It’s just the introduction for us.”
Reach Jacob Smith at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @JacobSmithPDT © 2019 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved