Derrick Webb, Staff Writer
LOGAN — At times, it was threatened. At times, it was even in doubt.
But rest assured, Wheelersburg’s set win streak — for now at least — is alive and well.
The Pirates (26-0) extended that win streak to 73 with a sweep of Adena, Thursday evening in a Division III regional semifinal at Logan High School.
In the process of remaining undefeated, Wheelersburg also clinched its first trip to the Elite Eight in school history.
“We’re super excited for the win. It’s the first time in our school’s history that we’ve made it to the Elite Eight,” senior Alli McQuay said. “We couldn’t be more excited. We played awesome tonight. At times, we got down. But we were picking each other up. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”
McQuay was as big of a part of the win as any. The District 14 Player of the Year, unofficially, posted 15 kills and 13 digs in the win while teammate Kylee Barney tallied 15 kills as well, coupled with six blocks at the net.
PHOTOS: Images from Wheelersburg’s sweep of Adena in a Division III regional semifinal
Those two were the main catalysts in the Pirates’ 26th straight win.
“[Barney] is just all arms. You’re not going to get through her,” Adena coach Laura Smith said. “We were running fakes and trying to hold her, and that was working. We played aggressive defense and the kids were trying to keep it off the floor as much as they could. We’ll get better. I was telling the kids that this is like the first practice for next year. We know what it takes.”
Adena (18-8) gave the Pirates all they could handle, and then some.
In the first set, Barney gave the Pirates leads of 5-3, 14-8 and 17-14. However, the Warriors tied the score at 20-20 when Jenna Martin sent a ball screaming to the hardwood.
Tied 21-21, Barney put the Pirates back on top before her teammates rallied to score three of the next five points to secure a 25-23 win.
Barney again gave the Pirates a lead in the second at 7-6 before McQuay later made it 16-11. But the Warriors continued to act as pests, taking an 18-16 lead with a 7-0 run before going up 24-23.
With 71 straight sets in their pocket, senior Mallory Bergan wasn’t about to let No. 72 pass by. She logged two consecutive kills before her Pirates scratched their way to a 28-26 victory, taking a 2-0 lead in the match.
“We had a scouting report this week and we [covered] the areas we knew they were going to hit, and we hit the holes in their defense,” McQuay said. “That helped us out a lot.”
Needing just one win to advance into a regional final, Wheelersburg seized a 9-5 lead off the rip in the third. That advantage grew to 19-12 before the Warriors decided to show up.
Behind Makenna Lovely and Ellie Harper, Adena enjoyed an 11-3 run to take a 23-22 lead.
“That’s just their resilience. The kids didn’t want to give in and I like that in them,” Smith said. “It makes next year look exciting. We told the girls not to be sad that it was over because this is going to make them better in the long run.”
As resilient as the Warriors were, the Pirates called a timeout and provided an answer. Bergan and sophomore Ryleigh Meeker helped put the game away, leading the Pirates on a 3-0 burst to seal the deal on a 25-23 win.
After McQuay and Barney, statistically, Meeker had 11 kills and 10 digs while Bergan finished with seven and 18 of her own. Lauren Jolly also helped out, totaling 16 digs, and Kaylee Darnell ended with 13 digs.
Adena was led by Jenna Martin with 13 kills, four blocks and six digs while Lovely added 10 kills and 12 digs. Harper finished with nine kills, Camryn Carroll had a team and game-high 39 digs, and Hannah Burns had three kills and eight digs.
Wheelersburg now advances into a Division III regional championship against Berlin Hiland at 2 p.m., Saturday back in Logan. The Hawks swept Huntington by a 25-13, 25-10, 25-17 final in the earlier game Thursday.
“Hiland is a really good team. But the way we played tonight shows, and makes me think, that we have a really good chance to beat them this Saturday,” Bergan said. “I’m really excited for it.”