By ANDY WOLF
Findlay High’s Olivia Baxter told herself she was getting the kill on match point one point before it happened in the Division I district quarterfinals Saturday at Findlay High.
“I expected myself to get that last point and it was amazing when I got it,” the Trojans’ senior outside hitter said.
It wasn’t with authority, but her light touch over a wall of Bowling Green defenders fell straight down on the left sideline to seal a 21-25, 25-12, 26-24, 25-21 victory.
That secured the Trojans’ first district semifinal appearance since 2012 after being knocked out in the district quarterfinals in each of the last four tournaments.
“I am extremely excited for what we’ve done over the season, and I think we all have improved in our own ways,” Baxter said.
“We’ve had some struggles through the season, but we all came together at the end. It’s great to play as a team.”
Findlay (13-10) advanced to meet top-seeded Toledo Notre Dame (19-4), which defeated Toledo Bowsher in three sets Saturday, in the district semifinals at 6:15 p.m. Wednesday at Lake High School. The Bobcats bowed out at 10-13.
Notre Dame is ranked ninth in the state and has won two straight district titles.
“It means a lot to this team to get back to what this program used to be and this team really wanted to set that bar,” Findlay coach Brittney Bills said. “Findlay had a very good reputation with volleyball, and now I think we’re kind of looked over in our conference and in our district.
“To be able to get back to district semifinals and put our name back on the map is really important to them.”
Baxter led all players with 18 kills, most from the left side, and added nine digs.
While her final kill sealed it, a near-miss on a pivotal third set nearly shifted the match in Bowling Green’s favor.
Neither team led by more than two points in the set.
Baxter went up for her usual attack and struck the ball hard only to see it roll the entire length across the net to give the Bobcats two set points up 24-22.
The Trojans saved both of them, getting a fortunate break as Bowling Green standout middleblocker Gracyn Amos hit one just long on the second set point.
After Brittney Haas registered a kill to put Findlay up 25-24, Baxter served an ace that glanced off BG’s Rachel Emans and sailed into the crowd.
“You have to come back no matter what. It’s a game of mistakes,” Baxter said. “I got really mad but I told myself ‘You’ll get this next ball. Just get it up and serve it over’ and I got it.”
The fourth set featured six lead changes, but the Trojans stayed in front the rest of the way after a 4-0 run put them up 18-15.
Haas chipped in five of her 15 kills in the set and FHS leading hitter Amy Feczer earned kills on the 23rd and 24th points before Baxter put the match away.
Feczer, who had 213 kills and 50 blocks coming in, was effective in spurts with 11 kills but didn’t have her normal statline as most of the opportunities went to Haas and Baxter on the outside.
“When our middles are on and we’re able to utilize our middles, that requires the middle on the other side of the net to stick with our middle,” Bills said. “A lot of times that leaves our outsides with a one-on-one block and with Olivia Baxter up there that’s almost a kill every time.”
Findlay’s offense didn’t get in sync until the second set as multiple hitting, setting and receiving errors cost them an 8-3 lead and fueled an eventual 12-2 Bowling Green run that put the Bobcats up 18-12.
In the second set, 17 of the Trojans’ points came via a kill or an ace.
“After that first set was done it was like, all right, we’re awake, we’ve knocked the rust off, let’s get back into some Findlay volleyball and I think we showed that in the second set,” Bills said.
Grace Blatnik tallied 50 assists for the Trojans while Grace Ramsey chipped in 19 digs and four aces.
Lexi Kisor paced Bowling Green with 13 kills and Abby Ray added 24 digs and five aces.
The Bobcats presented a formidable hitting duo in Kisor (267 kills) and Amos (268) at the middle.
Bills saw a strong enough effort out of her defense to limit the damage despite knowing Kisor and Amos would get their share of kills.
“Our block wasn’t as strong but our defense filled in those holes and was able to at least get a positive touch to where we could keep it in play,” Bills said.
BOWLING GREEN (10-13)
ACES: Abby Ray 5. KILLS: Lexi Kisor 13. ASSISTS: Alyssa Lang 30. DIGS: Ray 24. BLOCKS: Johanna Slembarski 3.
ACES: Grace Ramsey 4. KILLS: Olivia Baxter 18, Brittney Haas 15, Maddie Parker 13, Amy Feczer 11. ASSISTS: Grace Blatnik 50. DIGS: Grace Ramsey 19, Kayla Canterbury 12, Baxter 9.
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