Archbishop Hoban is set to return to Firestone Stadium this week for the second year in a row in search of a Division II championship trophy that eluded it last year.

Hoban lost to eventual Division II state champion Hebron Lakewood in a semifinal last year, and is back this year with several experienced players.

The Knights (23-3) will match up with LaGrange Keystone (26-4) at 5:30 p.m. Friday. Plain City Jonathan Alder (23-4) will play Hebron Lakewood (28-1) in Friday’s other semifinal at 3 p.m.

The Division II state final is at 7 p.m. Saturday.

“We are all so excited,” Hoban senior Maddie Terzola said. “We are thrilled to be back, especially after last year, just knowing how exciting the state semifinal game was with all the press and the fans. I think this year we kind of know what we are going into a little bit better, so we are a little bit more emotionally prepared and hyped up for this.”

Hoban senior Katie Clark said the pressure of a state semifinal was high last year, but the Knights once again find comfort in playing at Firestone Stadium that is “like a second home.” Hoban played at the Akron venue this year in the regular season and playoffs.

“When we got here last year I think we were a little bit star-struck and kind of let it get to us,” said Clark, a Robert Morris recruit. “I think that now that we have been there and been under a pressure situation and we have failed, and we have succeeded to get back, that we are going to be more apt to handle this type of atmosphere.”

Senior Laney Jones, an Ashland University recruit, is Hoban’s top pitcher at 15-2 and a key hitter with a .463 average and 35 RBI. She acknowledged that the Knights were “nervous” last year and have “grown from the experience.”

“This is going to be such a great state semifinal game,” Jones said. “I know most of the girls on the Keystone team and the coach [through summer ball]. This will be a cool experience for me and my teammates to play such a well known team throughout Ohio.”

Keystone is making its third state tournament appearance in a row and 16th overall. The Wildcats won state titles in 2012, 2006 and 1999, and were state runners-up in 2016, 2011, 2004, 2001, 1998, 1994 and 1992.

The Wildcats went 16-0 in the Patriot Athletic Conference this year for coach Jim Piazza.

“We look at them and compare them to ourselves,” said Maddie Terzola, who plans to attend the University of Dayton. “They have a strong defense, really good hitters one through nine, and they have a couple of really good pitchers. I understand one of them [senior Lauren Shaw] is committed to Iowa.”

Hoban returns to the state tournament for the 10th time overall. The Knights won state titles in 1992, 1991, 1987, 1986, 1985, 1984 and 1983.

Clark (.317, 24 runs) is Hoban’s third baseman. The other infielders are sophomore catcher Allyssa Hagenbaugh, junior shortstop Alex Whitmore (.468, 31 runs, 20 RBI), sophomore second baseman Jessica Knicely (.400) and junior first baseman Chloe Weidrick (.500, 21 runs, 20 RBI). Whitmore is a Marshall pledge.

Hoban’s outfield consists of junior Adrianna Powers in left, junior Emma Terzola (.429, 24 runs, 21 RBI) in center and senior Maddie Terzola (.415, 29 runs) in right. Junior Ashley Matousek (7-0, .413, 23 RBI) is the Knights’ No. 2 pitcher and a key hitter, and junior Olivia Blay is another regular.

“The girls are really all on the same page,” Hoban coach Frank Voss said. “It is somewhat easy to motivate them because they have strong character and a good background in softball. A lot of them play summer ball, so it is an easy team to manage as far as personalities and keeping things together.”

Maddie Terzola is also pumped to play alongside her sister, Emma, who is 16 months younger.

“I have been playing with Emma my entire life, so thinking that these could be the last two games that I play with her is honestly so emotional,” Maddie Terzola said. “It kind of makes me upset, but at the same time it makes me so excited to take advantage of this moment and cherish every second that I get to play beside her. It really is so special.”

Michael Beaven can be reached at 330-996-3829 or mbeaven@thebeaconjournal.com. Read the #ABJVarsity  high school blog at www.ohio.com/preps.