Derrick Webb, Staff Writer
WHEELERSBURG — There’s winning, and then there’s winning like Wheelersburg has this year.
Coming into Wednesday’s match with Notre Dame, the Pirates hadn’t lost a set in 42 tries. Wheelersburg, who’s ranked as the No. 8 team in Division III, wasn’t about to see that streak snap.
The Pirates (16-0) made quick work of a talented Titans team, beating Notre Dame in dominant, straight-set fashion by a 25-18, 25-14, 25-9 final.
“Our height, our length and our reach was a definite advantage tonight,” Wheelersburg Allen Perry said. “Notre Dame is a talented team. They’ve got all kinds of capable players. But you can’t coach length and height. We’re fortunate to have those two things, and it’s paired with experience. My girls just play really well together. They’re meshing together nicely.”
Despite the Pirates being undefeated, Notre Dame (16-3) came ready for a battle.
Trailing 8-4 in the first set, the Titans rallied for a 9-1 run, behind the serving of Ava Hassel and the net play of Sophia Hassel, to claim a 13-9 lead.
However, that burst of momentum was short-lived and Wheelersburg’s Kylee Barney made sure of it. Using her long 6-foot-2 frame, the sophomore was a force at the net and put balls away at every angle.
Barney powered her team to a 16-5 run down the stretch for a 25-18 win.
“I knew [Notre Dame] was going to come out strong and I knew that their offense was really good,” Barney said. “So I just put it in my mind that I had to go out there and block as much as I could so I could give our defense help.”
PHOTOS: Images from Wheelersburg’s sweep of Notre Dame
Barney’s impact took a back seat in the second set as Alli McQuay and Mallory Bergan took their turn at leading the Pirates to a win.
The lone seniors on the team each rallied for four early kills, giving the Pirates a 10-4 lead and forcing the Titans to call timeout and regroup.
Not to be left out, Emily Boggs joined the fun later in the set and became a force as she racked up six kills, alongside an ace down the stretch, as the Pirates ran to a 2-0 match lead.
The third never posed any problems for Wheelersburg as Perry’s team breezed its way to a 25-9 match-clinching victory, putting an exclamation point on a resume win.
“Tonight was just an overall huge team win,” junior Kaylee Darnell said. “The intensity coming in was huge, with the big crowd and with [Notre Dame] being a rival. Our defense played really well and we read it off the block. A lot of pressure is on this team but we just use the momentum from winning and build on it.”
Barney finished with eight kills and a team-high 10 blocks while McQuay logged a team-high 17 kills. Bergan had 14 kills and 20 digs, Darnell finished with 17 digs, Emily Boggs had 16 of her own, and Lauren Jolly had 48 assists.
Taylor Schmidt and Sophia Hassel led Notre Dame with seven kills apiece. Schmidt had 19 digs and and Hassel tallied 15 while Ava Hassel totaled two kills and a team-high 26 digs. Setter Cassie Schaefer also helped out, finishing with 22 assists.
Both teams are back in action tomorrow. Wheelersburg travels to Oak Hill while Notre Dame plays at East. With a win, the Pirates clinch at least a share of the SOC II title.
“That’s going to be a big game, just to clinch the SOC. We’re just going to bring the momentum from tonight, build it into tomorrow and, hopefully, we get that win.”