WAVERLY — Compete, execute, and simply win.
That has been the recipe for the Wheelersburg Lady Pirates (23-1) this season, and Friday night was no different.
In a three-set sweep over Nelsonville-York (25-8, 25-16, 25-17), the Lady Pirates stuck to their gameplan and in doing so, captured the program’s fourth consecutive Division III district championship.
For Wheelersburg’s five-member senior class, the win over the Lady Buckeyes was their eighth in as many games at the district stage in their high school careers — a feat that can only be matched by future members of the program.
“To be able to pull off four in a row just shows you the quality of the group of five seniors that I have,” Lady Pirates coach Allen Perry said after the win. “They have just been golden to work with. I’m going to miss those girls — they’ve earned this. They’ve really worked hard.”
Ready from the get-go, Wheelersburg took set one over Nelsonville-York by a convincing 25-8 margin.
One of senior Emily Boggs’ six kills ended the first set in the Lady Pirates’ favor, while Boggs also had 10 digs to aid her team defensively.
Senior setter Lauren Jolly had a stat-sheet stuffed performance, totaling 28 assists, 11 digs, 11 service points, five kills, two blocks and three ace serves in the straight-sets win.
Kaylee Darnell, in addition to having a team-high 14 digs, broke the Wheelersburg school record of 726 service points in the win over N-Y — passing 2020 graduate Alli McQuay for the top spot in that statistical category.
Ryleigh Meeker had eight kills and three blocks for Wheelersburg, while libero Kiera Kennard had a team-high 12 service points and three ace serves.
Kylee Barney, who finished with nine kills and two blocks, and sophomore Madie Mays, who had six kills and a team-high four blocks, drew the praise of Perry in the postgame for adhering to their preparatory gameplan in dealing with the Lady Buckeyes.
“Kylee Barney stuck to the gameplan today. She was all about scoring points. She wasn’t swinging away, just really focused on helping her team. She stuck to the gameplan and was really smart in the way she played,” Perry said. “Madie Mays, she really stepped up tonight. We put her up front on the front row to try and get a hand on the ball, and I thought she did a fantastic job. Thought she had a breakout game.”
In capturing the program’s fourth straight district crown, the Lady Pirates also secured their spot in Thursday’s Division III regional semifinal versus a familiar opponent — Tuscarawas Valley.
Two seasons ago during its 2018 postseason run, Wheelersburg fell victim to the Lady Trojans in three sets (25-19, 25-18, 25-11) at this same stage.
Tusky Valley would go on to represent the Logan regional in the Division III state semifinals, before falling in straight sets to eventual state champion Versailles.
Despite not knowing as of Friday if his Lady Pirates were to face Tusky Valley or district runner-up Union Local, Perry said his group is extremely excited to get back to the regional stage for yet another test in their season.
“We’re really excited to get back, even though we don’t really know what to expect,” Perry said. “It’s been difficult to get film this year, so we’re going to have to see what we can find and see what kind of gameplan we can work up. You know that Tusky Valley and Belmont (Union Local) are going to be really hard to beat. We’re going to have to bring our game, hang in there point-by-point and see if we can survive.”
The circumstances entering this season’s regional semifinals are somewhat different for Perry and the Lady Pirates, but nothing they likely can’t handle.
This will be the first time that Wheelersburg will enter the Division III regional tournament as defending regional champs — after capturing the program’s first title of its kind in a five-set thriller over Hiland a year ago.
“I think we always feel like there’s a target on their back no matter where we go, even in conference play,” Perry said. “They’re used to it, and I don’t think it’ll change their focus.”
Wheelersburg will take on Tuscarawas Valley in a Division III regional semifinal on Thursday (Nov. 5) at 5 p.m., which will be hosted at Berne Union High School in Sugar Grove.
The winner will meet the winner of Scioto Valley Conference rivals Westfall and Adena on Saturday (Nov. 7) at 2 p.m. — back at Berne Union.
Reach Jacob Smith at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @JacobSmithPDT © 2020 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved