Jeff Brewer

STOW: The Archbishop Hoban Knights are one win away from a trip to Wright State University and the Division II state volleyball tournament.

The Knights won a tight, back-and-forth first set and completed a 3-0 sweep of Hubbard in a regional semifinal Wednesday night at Stow-Munroe Falls High School.

“It feels amazing,” said Hoban senior Alex Hall after collecting 16 kills, 14 digs and 10 service points. “We’ve worked really hard. This has been our goal.”

The Knights will meet Notre Dame-Cathedral Latin at 2 p.m. Saturday for the regional championship at Stow.

“I’m super happy for the girls,” said Hoban coach Corey Verchio. “I couldn’t be prouder of them. They deserve it. They’ve earned it for sure.”

Wednesday’s win was extra special for Verchio, who took the top job at Hoban three years ago after serving for two seasons as an assistant at Stow.

“Coming back to this building, it feels good,” he said.

Hoban now is 15-0 in sets during the postseason, stopping Hubbard 27-25, 25-17, 25-18, and having dominated five opponents. But don’t think the Knights (14-12) haven’t faced their share of adversity.

“Our regular season prepared us for tonight,” Hall said. “We had a very tough schedule.”

The Knights played 12 state-ranked opponents in anticipation of making a tournament run.

“We’re used to playing from behind in our league,” Verchio said. “But, learning how to win is a skill, just like serving, passing and hitting. At the end of September we finally learned how to finish games.”

Hoban’s mettle was tested in the first set when the Knights lost a 17-12 lead, fell behind 22-19, but rallied to win 27-25.

Sophomore Ashley Kozer (21 assists, nine kills, eight digs and 10 service points) clinched the set with a blast that left Hubbard chasing.

In the second set, Hoban sophomore Marissa Durkin had a pancake dig that led to a point and gave the Knights a 17-12 lead. Once again, the Eagles fought back to trail 18-16. Hoban then ripped off five straight points to take charge. In the middle of that flurry, Hall had a bump kill, which had her shaking her head.

She had stuck out her arm to dig Hubbard’s attack and the ball sailed over the net falling to the floor for a Hoban point.

“I got really lucky,” Hall said. “A point is a point. It might not always be the prettiest.”

The Knights ended the set on a 7-1 run to go top 2-0, but they knew Hubbard had been in that same position days earlier before shocking Crestwood to win the district.

Hoban proceeded to score the first five points of the third set and led the rest of the way. The Eagles (19-6) scrambled back to trail 16-15, but Hall’s kill off the block gave the Knights some breathing room.

“Alex and I connect pretty well,” Kozer said. “When she has the hot hand, I set her.”

Kozer polished off Hubbard with two big kills to seal the match.

“We didn’t have Ashley for the first 11 games because she was a transfer [from Our Lady of the Elms],” Verchio said. “It took a couple of games to get her worked into the lineup.”

Hoban statistical leaders included junior Jordyn Rhoades (21 assists), sophomore libero Annie Leslein (22 digs), and senior Erin Gibbons and junior Erica Roberts with two blocks apiece.

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