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Western Reserve rally stuns Huron

By JOSH MORGRET • Oct 25, 2017 at 10:22 PM

Western Reserve volleyball coach Lisa Muenz isn’t sure how long it has been since the Roughriders have made a district championship.

It’s time to find out.

Western Reserve played what Muenz called its most intense match of year, and topped Huron, 25-23, 20-25, 18-25, 25-23, 15-7, in a Division III district semifinal at Seneca East on Wednesday.

"That was, as a match, the most intense and aggressive we have played all year," Muenz said. "I think our practices have been so hard and the girls have been battling and making each other better. I think that is what has fed into the success this year."

The fourth-seeded Roughriders improve to 18-7 overall and will meet third-seeded Ashland Crestview (17-7) for a third time this season in the district title at 3 p.m. Saturday at Seneca East.

"It was pretty simple. Western Reserve came to play and were ready to play," Huron coach Don Wood said. "Western Reserve played their butts off and I think our kids were not focused and were not really ready to play. It showed. I thought Western Reserve was better all night and they absolutely deserved to win."

Western had not made it to the district semifinals since 2004. The Tigers, who finish with a record of 15-9, have made 24 consecutive district appearances.

"The lack of preparation before the match hurt us," Wood said. "For an inexperienced team, it is a learning process on how to get yourself mentally prepared to play in a big match."

The Roughriders scored the first two points of Game 5 on two errors by Huron. The Tigers clawed back and tied the game at 5-5, after a Western Reserve error. From there, the Roughriders scored four of the next five points before Wood called timeout. A service error cut the Roughriders' lead to 9-7, but that was the last point for Huron.

A serve error by the Tigers, coupled with an ace by Joleen Muenz forced Wood into another timeout. Huron committed yet another hitting error before Muenz served up two more aces. Western Reserve finished off the match when Huron committed one last error.

"Going into that fifth game, there was just a feeling," coach Muenz said. "I was so proud because the girls looked at me knowing they could do it. I think that is what made the difference for all of them as a team."

Wood clearly saw Western Reserve snatch up an opportunity.

"Western Reserve saw the light in that fifth game and they went for it," said the Norwalk graduate. "That is what you do to win in tournament time. They went for it and we backed off. We were tentative coming out."

The Roughriders jumped on Huron by taking Game 1. Both teams had opportunities to separate themselves, but neither could. Western Reserve was the closest to doing that, as a kill by Brooke Ommert and an ace from Alyssa Burch opened a 14-11 lead.

Huron didn’t fade, but also got not get any closer than a tie. That came when Katie Springer put down one of her 12 kills to tie the game, 18-18. From there, the Roughriders ran off the next four points before Huron came storming back. Later, Ally Gresh's kill sliced the Western Reserve lead to 24-23, but a kill from Morgan Boswell gave the Roughriders the early lead.

Game 2 was just as close as the first one. Huron extended a lead to 24-19 after big blocks by Georgi Moody and Olivia Lagando. After a net violation, Lagando smacked one of her 15 kills to tie the match.

In what is usually a crucial third game, the teams continued their even play. There was six lead changes and 10 ties in just the first 20 points. Huron was the first to take a significant lead after kills from Gresh and Lagando opened a 13-10 lead.

The Tigers increased the lead to 18-11 after a Western Reserve error and Gresh block. The Roughriders hung around, but only got within five points once. Blocks from Kamryn Lobsinger and Lagando put Huron ahead, 2-1.

"I was never comfortable the whole night," Wood said. "Western Reserve kept playing and our decision making was not very good all night. We had moments where we made adjustments. It just was not consistent."

With their backs against the wall, the Roughriders came out guns blazing in Game 4. Western Reserve won the first three points and opened a 7-1 lead, though the Tigers responded and turned a 20-14 deficit into a 21-21 tie.

Still tied at 23, an error by Huron, coupled with a kill from Ommert forced a deciding, winner-take-all fifth game.

"It was a very close game and we lost that lead," Muenz said. "You lose that momentum and teams get in trouble because it is hard to get it back. We worked on that all year — to be able to bounce back and capitalize and we did it."

Ommert led Western Reserve with 15 kills while Avery Tubbs put down 12 kills. White added 27 digs and eight kills, while Burch served for 14 points. Andrea Robson tallied 30 assists, Hannah Burke registered 24 assists, and Western Reserve had 13 blocks as a team.

In the regular season, the Cougars topped Western in five games in Olivesburg on Sept. 7, and in four games in Collins on Oct. 3.

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