McDERMOTT —Simply put, Northwest’s senior volleyball fivesome has always wanted to cut down a net.
In proverbial fashion, and following Wednesday night’s five-set thriller for a Division III district semifinal volleyball match, the Mohawk seniors posed for pictures — each holding part of a volleyball net up.
Indeed, that could only mean they were winners — and more like survivors — of a grueling epic against visiting Nelsonville-York, as the Mohawks captured the volley-filled rock fight 14-25, 25-19, 26-24, 11-25 and 15-13 to advance to Saturday’s district championship bout.
That is correct, as it was a back-and-forth pendulum-swinging affair — which had players, coaches and fans for the overwhelming match’s majority on proverbial pins and needles.
So, of course, it came down to the fifth and final set, in which the Mohawks —although indeed challenged —never trailed, and stood tied only once at 1-1.
In fact, the Mohawks held a 7-2 advantage after a pair of Kloe Montgomery kills combined with an N-Y attack error and net violation, but the Buckeyes battled back —and finally got to within 14-13 on consecutive kills by Mackenzie Hurd and two by Brooklyn Richards.
But the Mohawks took a timeout, and took a depth breath, before returning to the court.
“I was praying the whole time,” laughed Northwest coach Elizabeth Lewis. “But seriously, I believe in my girls and I knew they could do it. It’s just them believing they can do it. As you can see, it was a great team win.”
The Mohawks did in fact “do it”.
The Buckeyes’ Ciara McKinney served for the potential tying point at 14-14, but a fantastic cross-court kill by Montgomery clinched the final point —and sent the Mohawks and their faithful into a frenzied celebration.
And, it sent them into Saturday’s Division III district championship match —as the sixth-seeded Mohawks face top-seeded Adena at Waverly High School.
Both Northwest and now-eliminated Nelsonville-York, which was the seventh seed in the Division III Southeast District bracket, are 19-5.
However, it’s the Mohawks moving on —thanks in large part to their senior-oriented rotation.
The five-setter allowed for a stat-sheet stuffer, as setter Reagan Lewis landed 45 assists —along with four kills, 15 digs and one ace.
That one ace you ask?
It followed her fifth-game kill to make it 12-9, as she also responded from arguing a questionable lift call against the Mohawks with her final kill —which made it a two-point lead (11-9).
Ava Jenkins, who paced the Mohawks’ offense with 17 kills, put down her final one to make it 14-10.
She also amounted a team-high 30 digs, served for three aces, and had 41 service receptions.
Audrey Knittel notched 15 kills, three aces, two blocks and 16 digs —as Abby Spriggs dug up 25 balls, netted nine kills and assisted on two others, had 55 service receptions, and served up an ace.
Lewis in assists (45), Jenkins in digs (30) and kills (17), Knittel in digs (16) and Spriggs (25) in digs all had season-highs.
Montgomery muscled for six kills, four assists, 10 digs and an ace — as those five forged those statistics, and more importantly the district semifinal victory, in their final home match.
Last season, seventh-seeded Zane Trace bounced the Mohawks from the tournament in four games —in that same Northwest gym.
“We’ve been working on all those different attacks and angles, and we just executed,” said Coach Lewis. “We did have a few downers where we had stretches and they went on a run, and a really long run in that third game, but I really felt we played together as a team. The girls never gave up.”
And, it would have been easy to do so —especially with the way the Buckeyes bowed up and got back to within 10-9 and 14-13 in the fifth game, and after Nelsonville-York steamrolled through the first (25-14) and fourth sets (25-11).
In addition, after the Mohawks won the second set 25-19, they blitzed the Buckeyes for a lead as large as 10 twice in the third —at 21-11 and 22-12.
But the Buckeyes combined kills with unforced Northwest errors to furiously rally —and actually erase a 24-18 deficit to make it 24-24 on back-to-back hitting and attack errors.
However, a Spriggs kill — following a marathon series of volleys — gave the Mohawks the lead at 25-24, and eventually the set point for the 2-1 advantage (26-24 win).
To the Buckeyes’ credit, they were a digging machine which Northwest had to counter —as Nelsonville-York kept several balls alive by simply, and deeply, diving for them.
“Nelsonville-York had some good hitters, but they really dug the ball well. I thought we hit some balls that for sure were down, and they were digging them up,” said Lewis.
But the Mohawks held off the Buckeyes in sets two and three —and finally, fiercely, fended them off in game five.
“The girls just hung in there. They (Buckeyes) would get the momentum, but we just didn’t give up. It was a heckuva match that could have gone either way. We pulled it out 15-13 (game five), you can’t get much closer than that,” said the coach. “I thought we might be able to handle them a little bit better, because I thought we had more areas to take the ball as far as our hitters, and the number of hitters that we have and where to place it.”
Another up-front hitter, Faith Jewett, chipped in seven kills —while libero Alayna Bazler boasted a season-high 14 digs.
Although, Wednesday’s win was all about the Mohawks’ five seniors —and their desire to “cut down a net” for their final home match.
“It’s been a while since this program has been to a district final, so I am very excited for this group. It’s something we’ve been eyeing all season of course. This group of five seniors, they are absolutely close. On the court and outside of the gym,” said Lewis. “It’s neat to see this happening for them. Just a great group of girls with no drama. They are friends on and off the court.”
On the court, the Mohawks now face top-seeded, Scioto Valley Conference champion and longtime Division III Southeast District powerhouse Adena in Saturday’s district final.
Match time is set for 11 a.m. at Waverly High School.
Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at email@example.com, or on Twitter @paulboggssports © 2021 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved