BARBERTON: An early scare turned out to just be a bump in the road Wednesday night for the Wadsworth volleyball team.
The No. 1 seeded Grizzlies dropped their first set in a Division I district final to the rival Copley Indians at Barberton.
The Indians’ intensity in the opening set was obvious and their intent was clear: they came to play.
Two hours after the first serve, Wadsworth seniors Rachel Goddard, Haley Beavers and Haley Hassinger hoisted a district championship trophy and the celebration was on for the Grizzlies after winning three sets to one.
“My first year, we made it to the district semis, then last year, we made it to the district finals, and this year we make it to regional,” Wadsworth coach Jill Quayle said. “It would be even better if we can keep it going.”
Wadsworth (23-2) will play Thursday at Hudson in a regional semifinal against Chagrin Falls Kenston or Solon, who will play Saturday.
Copley (9-17) entered the match an underdog and nearly shocked Wadsworth, which had swept through the Suburban League with a 14-0 league mark.
The Indians took a 5-0 lead en route to a 25-20 win in the opening set. The Grizzlies rebounded to triumph in the next three sets 25-20, 27-25 and 25-19.
“[Junior] Peyton Booth helped us regroup,” Quayle said. “She had clutch plays, whether it be her aces or an outstanding dig that she had, and, of course, her kills were huge. Rachel Goddard made a couple of outstanding plays where you think it is going to hit the floor and all of a sudden — boom — she gets the ball up. I think all of our players played well. We had a lot of contributions. [Junior] Ciera Koons was terrific with her blocks. She owned the net tonight.”
Booth finished with 19 kills, 24 digs and three service aces.
“We had a list of goals at the beginning of the season,” Booth said. “We wanted to win Suburban, we wanted to win district, we wanted to win regional and we wanted to get to state and win that too.”
Wadsworth needs four more wins for a state title.
Coons totaled 13 blocks and 10 kills. Freshman Jodi Johnson (14 kills) was also a presence at the net for Wadsworth juniors Madison Gilger, Andrea Beavers and Erin Zita.
“My serving wasn’t really on, so coach subbed me out with Taylor [Kellis], who did a very nice job serving for me,” Koons said. “I had time to focus on my blocking.”
Haley Beavers had 50 assists and 20 digs.
“It feels great to win that trophy, and especially since I went to regionals my freshman year,” Beavers said. “Being able to do it again with this team is fantastic.”
Goddard had 27 digs, and said momentum was on Wadsworth’s side after the third set.
“Our confidence started to build up and increase,” Goddard said. “We started to feel that this was ours to win.”
Copley senior Alex Stanton had 17 kills and 11 blocks. Sophomore Bella Ison and seniors Mekenzie Prentiss (47 digs), Summer Emich (37 assists), Courtney Aalseth, Monica Leach and Taylor Beard were among several Copley players whose performance was inspired.
“We have been playing well since last Monday,” Copley coach Chuck Musselman said. “We ended the regular season with 11 straight losses. We finally got some kids healthy and back into practice. The kids stepped up and beat Firestone in the first round. We then beat Cuyahoga Falls and Highland to get to the district final. Highland smoked us in the regular season, and then we took them.
“We had kids get injured left and right, and finally at the end of the year, my seniors started stepping up and buying into what we were trying to do all year. We had to change the atmosphere. A lot of girls were used to losing these past couple of years. Coming in this first year, we had to change the philosophy and get them to believe they could win.”
Michael Beaven can be reached at 330-996-3829 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the high school blog at http://www.ohio.com/preps. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/MBeavenABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.