By SCOTT COTTOS
SYCAMORE – When New Riegel defeated Arcadia in a five-set match early in the regular season, Blue Jackets coach Jon Price learned something that would serve him well in Thursday night’s rematch in a Division IV district quarterfinal volleyball contest at Mohawk.
“That we’d better be ready to play ball,” Price said of the lesson learned.
New Riegel, ranked 19th in the final state coaches association poll, put that knowledge into action by downing the Redskins 26-24, 25-20, 25-27, 25-20 in the first match of the night.
Mohawk, ranked seventh in the state, beat Toledo Christian 25-12, 27-25, 25-17 in the nightcap, giving coach Eric Hoover the 300th win of his career.
The Blue Jackets (19-4) and Warriors (21-2) will meet in Monday’s 6 p.m. district semifinal at Fostoria High School.
“We knew they were going to bring it,” Price said. “Basically, we knew what they were going to do. We played them and scouted them, so we knew what they were going to do.
“It kind of took us until the third game before we started getting any blocks and I was a little disappointed that we weren’t doing that earlier. My assistant, Tony (Conner) kind of took charge of that blocking and got it straightened out and that kind of changed things.”
Though the match went four sets, Price pointed to a comeback victory in the first as being critical.
Lyndee Ward put away three kills and Tori Green added a pair as Arcadia (18-6) opened the match by rolling to a 13-6 lead.
The Blue Jackets, however, pecked away at the deficit and gained a tie at 24 on a Christen Hohman kill. Brooklyn Gillig then ended the set with two consecutive aces.
“Coming back in that first game was big,” Price said. “They had momentum totally in their favor. I just liked the way we took charge in that first game, swung the momentum and it carried over into the second.”
Madalyn Reinhart and freshman Aubrey Bouillon served for two aces apiece and Jordan Hohman added one as New Riegel led by as many as seven points and never trailed in the second set.
The teams were nip-and-tuck in the third set. Arcadia claimed a 23-20 lead, but saw the Blue Jackets rally to tie it at 24. The set was also tied at 25, 26 and 27 before Ward’s kill and Green’s ace gave the set to the Redskins.
“I was a little disappointed in the third game,” Price said. “We came out flat.”
Arcadia shot out to a 7-2 lead in the fourth set, but New Riegel again rallied. The teams were tied at 15 before Kaitlyn Kirian cashed in a block and a two-handed tap to put the Jackets in front for good at 17-15.
“My girls are fighters,” Redskins coach Jacquie Ramsey said. “We played hard. We just didn’t play our best, which we knew we needed to do.
“We struggled on serve receive and that hurt us mentally. We struggled to run a tuned offense. We didn’t do the things we prepared for all week. We had leads and didn’t capitalize on them.”
Mohawk struggled for only short periods of time on its way to raising Hoover’s career record to 300-73 in 15 seasons. He was surprised by a postgame ceremony in which he was presented a plaque and a volleyball and former players spoke to the crowd about playing for him.
“It’s awesome,” Hoover said of the achievement. “You’ve got to have some longevity, honestly, and in this profession that’s not always the case. Some people don’t stick with it long enough to win 300 games. I’ve been fortunate enough to do that. I’ve had a lot of great players who put a lot of hours in. I put time in to help them, but they have to show up and work on their skills, in season and out.”
Toledo Christian (15-8) put up a stiffer challenge in the second set after the Warriors cruised through the first. After a 25-apiece tie, Mohawk came away with the win behind kills by Paityn Clouse and Madi Chester.
The Eagles led by as many as six points in the final set before starting to struggle with the score at 15-10. Shortly thereafter, with Clouse serving well and Emma Myers-Huffman scoring on three blocks and a tap, the Warriors owned a 22-15 advantage.
Chester ended up with team-highs of 18 kills and 13 digs. Alexa Konkle collected 37 assists and three aces and Myers-Huffman added nine kills.
ACES: Alexa Konkle 3, Mady Chester & Kaylee Ward 1. KILLS: Chester 18, Emma Myers-Huffman 9, Paityn Clouse 8. ASSISTS: Konkle 37. DIGS: Konkle, Ward & Aubrey Margraf 8.
SERVING: Samantha Burnett 23-23, Sydney Ramsey 19-19, Caity Cramer 15-15, Samantha Watkins 15-15. ACES: Burnett 2, Ramsey 2. KILLS: Tori Green 19, Lea Pessell 12, Watkins 9. SPIKING: Green 41-45, Lyndee Ward 26-29, Pessell 22-25. ASSISTS: Burnett 26, Cramer 14. SETTING: Burnett 61-62, Cramer 47-49. SERVE RECEIVE: Mallory Laveglia 20-22, Watkins 17-22, Green 14-14. DIGS: Watkins 20, Ramsey 14, Burnett 13. BLOCKS: Morgan Squire 2.