McDERMOTT — Now these, for the overwhelming majority of Tuesday’s tilt, looked like the Lady Pirates that most are grown accustomed to.
The result, at least, was one the Southern Ohio Conference Division II has become all too familiar with.
That being a three-set sweep, as visiting Wheelersburg won over previously-undefeated Northwest by scores of 25-20, 25-13 and 26-24.
With the win, Wheelersburg — which played at full strength and indeed played plenty healthy — raised its record to 4-1 and 3-1 in the SOC II, making it all four victories in three-game sweeps sandwiched around its four-set loss against league leader and undefeated South Webster.
The Mohawks, which had won their opening 18 sets and six matches to start the season including five in the division, fell to 6-1 (5-1 SOC II).
Northwest nearly notched a third-game win to force at least the fourth set, but the experienced Pirates — with some of their best recent memories having resulted from rallies — erased a 23-22 deficit with three consecutive Kylee Barney kills and a Mohawk hitting error to end it.
That furious final game featured a pair of lead changes and count ‘em up 13 ties —the final of which was at 24-24 with Northwest’s Kloe Montgomery mustering a kill.
But Barney — the six-foot, one-inch anchor in the middle for the Pirates —swung hard and hit home her 14th and final kill, as Wheelersburg induced a hitting error by the Mohawks for the 26-24 final.
“That’s experience. I have five girls out there that are seniors and who have played in big games in the past. How do you coach that? You either have that experience or you don’t,” said Wheelersburg coach Allen Perry. “They were able to draw from that experience where we’ve been down a lot in the past and were able to fight back. They have that, they know how to do it and they don’t panic or ever give up. That lends itself to that style of volleyball. I’m really proud of them tonight.”
When Wheelersburg wins, and plays the part as one of the top Division III squads in the entire state, it forces its opponent into mistakes combined with its hitters being spot on.
That was quite the case on Tuesday as the Pirates’ primary hitters of Barney, Ryleigh Meeker, Emily Boggs and Kaylee Darnell did their jobs well — and collected a few of their kills on tips and touches instead of their usual hammer-downs.
Besides Barney’s 14, the junior Meeker — who missed the South Webster match due to injury — added a dozen kills.
Both also recorded a block apiece.
Lauren Jolly set for 31 assists, while Boggs bagged seven service points and a match-high 15 digs.
“We like to think we have a very powerful offense, but I think we were fortunate tonight to find some holes and find some points that we don’t usually score, on tips and things like that. The girls did a really good job with that and worked through some of those momentum changes. When Northwest gets momentum, they really like to take it and not give it up,” said Perry. “They have a lot of weapons on that side that they can keep feeding that will keep that momentum. They feed off that energy as you saw in that third set, because we couldn’t get that energy away from them. I think Kylee (Barney) did a fantastic job of finding those points around (Haidyn) Wamsley, and she showed her maturity and experience. And I thought that Ryleigh Meeker was a difference-maker in this match. She didn’t get as many opportunities as we had her in the second rotation as the middle hitter, but the timing of her coming in was perfect. It generally came at a time when we needed a big point, and she was able to get those for us.”
Besides finding holes in the Northwest defense, the Pirates also kept their serves away from its top hitter —Haidyn Wamsley.
Wamsley still tied Barney for a match-high 14 kills, including three consecutive in game three which erased a 21-19 Northwest deficit en route to its 23-22 late lead.
She also amounted two blocks, six digs and a third-set service ace for Northwest’s initial lead in that game at 5-4.
“How about Haidyn Wamsley? Does she not get up in the air or what? My goodness, she gets up there. I think that any team that plays against them will try to do whatever they can to limit her contact and limit that massive attack she has,” said Perry. “What a player she is and she can hammer the ball.”
Wamsley led off the match with back-to-back kills that pushed the Mohawks out to leads of 3-0 and 4-1 —their largest advantage of the entire night.
But Northwest had back-to-back attack errors and a hitting error which resulted in a 4-4 tie —the first of seven deadlocks in the opening game.
A Mohawk service error and a double-hit call gave the Pirates a 9-8 lead, which they refused to relinquish the remainder of the set.
A Boggs ace sandwiched around a pair of Meeker kills opened up a 21-15 cushion — as a Mohawk service error (22-16), another Meeker kill (23-18), another double hit (24-18) and another hitting error (25-20) ended the opener with Wheelersburg winning.
Northwest then led 2-0 and 4-2 in game two, thanks to another Wamsley hard-hit cross-court thunderous kill, but four more consecutive Mohawk errors — a lift, two attack errors and a hitting error —allowed for four straight Pirate points and a 6-4 lead that only expanded from there.
“Notoriously, since I’ve been at Wheelersburg, we’ve been slow starting in a match or a set. Sometimes we have a hard time fighting through those first few points,” said Perry. “We have to settle into a rhythm, and sometimes it takes us a few points to settle into that rhythm.”
Wheelersburg libero Kiera Kennard, who had 12 digs and a team-high 10 service points, served up two of her three aces to make it 10-5.
Meeker amassed four kills in the game, including for leads of 14-6, 17-7, 18-7 and 24-13, as Kennard served up her third and final ace for the 25-13 final.
The Pirates’ largest lead of the back-and-forth third game stood at 17-13, before the Mohawks doubled them up 10-5 over the next 15 points — taking their second advantage of the game at 23-22.
The second set, however, as Northwest coach Elizabeth Lewis said, was one in which the Mohawks wanted to have back.
“I really wish we could have had a couple of sets back of course. Unforced errors obviously killed us tonight,” said Lewis. “We knew Wheelersburg has some good hitters and was going to make some good plays and we were prepared for that, but we have to be able to minimize our unforced errors. Not the outcome we wanted, but that is a good Wheelersburg team we lost to. There’s a lot of things we learned from tonight that we are going to work on and practice and we’ll look forward to our matchup against them later in the year.”
Audrey Knittel notched six kills, a block and an ace for the Mohawks, while Ava Jenkins added three kills and a team-high 12 digs.
Reagan Lewis set for 23 assists, made a block and had four digs, as libero Lydia Emmons added five digs and two aces.
Montgomery managed three kills, Terah Webb was credited with six digs, and Abbey Springs served an ace with eight serve-receptions.
Northwest will travel to West on Thursday for another SOC II bout, but it’s the rematch with Wheelersburg on Oct. 6 that’s already got Perry pointing ahead.
“Northwest should not be overlooked. They are dangerous. Especially later on in the year and come district time. They are loaded,” he said.
But so too are his Pirates, which looked like on Tuesday the Wheelersburg we’ve all become accustomed to.
Wheelersburg was back in action, and in Jackson County on back-to-back days, for a non-league match at Jackson on Wednesday and at Oak Hill for another SOC II affair on Thursday.
Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @BoggsSports © 2020 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved