Derrick Webb, Staff Writer
DAYTON — In the biggest stages of the game, Independence relied on its experience to guide itself through choppy waters.
Playing in their fifth straight state semifinal, the Blue Devils stayed the course and ended Adena’s season in straight sets — a 25-22, 25-16, 26-24 final in a Division III state semifinal on Friday.
Though it was their first time being on the state tournament stage in seven years, the Warriors (25-3) shook off any early nerves and generated early energy.
Behind three kills and a block from Jenna Martin at the net and Hope Garrison at the service line, they jumped out to a 10-2 lead.
Independence (28-0) made a run behind Hanna Wilson and Aubrey Anders to tie the game at 12-12, but the Warriors remained firm and didn’t surrender the lead.
Later tied at 15-15, kills from Martin and Makaela Lovely helped string together a 4-0 run to push the lead to 19-15 before it swelled 22-17.
However, lady luck didn’t favor the Warriors down the stretch.
Powered by Wilson, Anders and setter Abby Aliva, the Devils flexed their muscles and ended the set on an abrupt 8-0 run, closing out a first set win.
With momentum on its side, Independence went right back to work and kept its foot on the gas in the second.
Wilson powered down a kill before an Anders block and an ace from Callie Prokopius as the Devils grabbed a 10-6 edge.
After back-to-back Adena points, the Devils created distance with Wilson at the service line. She led the charge on a 6-0 run for a 16-8 advantage.
The Warriors attempted to mount a rally, but the hole that had been dug was just too deep as the Devils closed out the second set to take a 2-0 match lead.
However, Adena wasn’t going down without a fight.
Camryn Carroll served up a pair of aces as part of a 5-0 run to take an early 8-3 lead in the third. The Warriors kept applying pressure behind Makenna Lovely and Martin, pushing their lead to 16-7 for the biggest lead of the set.
Yet, Independence weathered the storm once again and began making its charge back into the game.
Trailing 18-10, the Devils turned to Prokopius to lead the way and she answered with four kills as part of a 9-1 run that tied the game at 19-19, forcing Adena to regroup.
After back and forth play, Adena’s Hannah Burns came through with back-to-back kills to put her team ahead 23-22.
But, in the end, Anders and Sammy Barther answered with two consecutive kills before an Adena hitting error closed out the game, and the Warriors’ season.
Prokopius led the Blue Devils with 11 kills alongside 14 digs while Wilson had 10 kills. Anders finished with eight kills and two aces, Barther had five kills and six digs, and Avila ended the afternoon with eight kills, 32 assists and 12 digs.
For Adena, Martin was the team’s kill leader with seven to go along with three digs. Harper added six kills, Makenna Lovely had five kills and five digs, Garrison finished with four aces, 18 assists and 11 digs, Camryn Carroll had a team-high 17 digs, and Burns added four kills.
Adena says goodbye to 10 seniors — both Makenna and Makaela Lovely, Carroll, Harper, Martin, Garrison, Haylie Rutherford, Emma Curry, Emily Jones and Kenzi Smith.
That group ends their four-year careers at 74-28 with two SVC titles, three district crowns and the program’s first regional championship since 2014.