A changing of the guard in Ohio Capital Conference Capital Division volleyball might be coming soon. But not yet.
The Orange Pioneers surprised the Big Walnut Golden Eagles early on and gave the hosts fits much of the match, but Big Walnut rallied back from game point in the third game and held off a Pioneer rally in the fourth for a heart-pounding 24-26, 25-11, 29-27, 30-28 victory Thursday at Big Walnut High School.
Big Walnut (2-1, 2-0 OCC Capital) was the victor, but Orange (0-2, 0-2) impressed the crowd.
“We did some really good things tonight,” Orange coach Jessica Timmons said. “The kids communicated well and the kids were scrappy. We had to fight for every point, which is good for them because they need to learn to do that. We’re also learning to become mentally tough, so every game we’re going to get better.”
“They played very well tonight,” Big Walnut coach Ron Lehman said. “In the four years they’ve had volleyball, this is by far the best they’ve played. Jess is doing a great job there, and I was impressed with them.”
And early in the first game, the Pioneers stunned the Big Walnut crowd, taking a 16-6 lead before holding off a Golden Eagle rally for the game one win.
“We’re just making too many mistakes,” Lehman said. “We have a bunch of youngsters out there and at times, they look like it, but they show flashes of playing really well. You have to remember they’re sophomores and freshmen. They’re coming along.”
But Big Walnut broke back in the second game with the serve. The Golden Eagles had seven aces in the game, three on Orange serve receive errors.
“One of the reasons for that is we have kids playing positions they’re not used to playing, but they’re gaining valuable experience in the back row on serve reception,” Timmons said. “They’re giving it the best they’ve got and we’re proud of the hard work they’re giving us.”
“We missed a few more serves than we’d like, but we talk to the kids all the time about serving aggressively,” Lehman said. “We had a lot of success with that.”
Things tightened considerably in the final two games, both going back and forth. Orange rallied from a 16-11 deficit and had game point twice in the third, but Big Walnut countered to win the game on its second game point.
In the fourth, Big Walnut pushed the lead to match point at 24-19, but after a kill by Mackenzie Gossard, the Orange sophomore served the next five points to put the Pioneers a point away from a fifth and deciding game.
“When Mackenzie goes back to serve, she is very confident; very cool and collected,” Timmons said. “We needed that at that time, and she did that, and that’s what I was most proud of, that we didn’t give up. We didn’t crack under pressure. They fought every point and tried to keep the ball off the floor at all times. That was huge for us.”
Big Walnut earned the side out on the next point, but had three chances to secure the match go by the wayside on two Pioneer kills and a missed serve. The Golden Eagles buckled down after that, however, getting a kill from Morgan Alley for the side out, and a kill from Claire Chatterton to finally secure the match.
“Our kids had a chance to play under a sort of self-imposed pressure, but they handled it pretty well,” Lehman said.
Natalie Chatterton topped all hitters with 21 kills for Big Walnut, adding eight blocks while going 12 of 15 from the service line with two aces. Kayla Walaszek added eight kills and two blocks, while Kylee Williams had seven kills, two assists and four aces on 21 of 23 serving.
Alley topped all setters with 34 assists, but added six kills and four blocks while going 9 of 11 on service with one ace. Abby Painter closed with five kills, two assists and a block, but had a game-high six aces on 23 of 28 serving.
“Morgan is doing all right,” Lehman said. “I’ve been pleased with her progress so far. She does add one thing that Tab (Piper) didn’t, and that is that she can get up and hit the ball pretty well. She’s really improving on her sets and she’s really coming along.”
Haley Mucha had a team-high 14 kills plus a game-high 12 blocks while going 16 of 17 on service with two aces for Orange. Gossard added 11 kills and seven blocks, adding her 6 of 6, two-ace performance from the service line in game four.
Abby Fordham closed with eight kills and two blocks and was 14 of 15 from the service line, and Mary Ervin was 22 of 23 serving with three aces while adding five kills. Kayli Lucius had 28 set assists for the Pioneers, also going 11 of 11 on serve with one ace.
Liberty stayed perfect in OCC-Cardinal Division play Thursday, dropping visiting Dublin Jerome in three games.
The Patriots, led by Morgan Tyree’s 15 kills and Stephanie Ruffing’s four aces and 19 digs, won 25-10, 25-18, 25-12.
Other Liberty leaders included Marina Zahran, who had a team-best six blocks; and Cassandra Zahran, who finished with 30 assists.
Olentangy kept pace with the OCC-Cardinal’s elite, staying unbeaten in the league with Thursday’s 25-21, 25-22, 25-17 win over visiting Marysville.
“The difference came down to an injury,” Olentangy coach Michelle Mimna said. “Our starting libero knocked her head and had to come out and, when we put in a replacement, we were down seven points in the second game. The girls pulled it together, though, rallied around the injury and went on to pull out the win.”
Stat leaders included Kasia Walczak, who had 13 kills; Allie Brown, who finished with 11 kills; and Alexis Elmurr, who had 17 digs.
Delaware Christian improved to 3-0 Thursday, beating visiting Grove City Christian in three games, 25-21, 25-9, 25-15.
The Eagles were led by Lenora Boyer, who had six kills; Wendy Ferrigno, who finished with five kills to go with seven digs; Chelsea Howard, who closed with four aces and five kills; and the duo of Haley Kirby and Sarah Harp, who had three aces each. Harp also had nine digs.
Hayes fell to host Mount Vernon Thursday night, losing in three by scores of 25-13, 25-13, 25-8.
Sarah Scott led the Pacers with a team-high five kills and 12 digs. Other standouts included Andie Moore and Rachel Howser, who had two kills each; and Shawna Ximines, who finished with 11 digs.