Gracie Perkins
Brock Netter

Brock Netter

Brock is SOSA's primary writer and has worked for the Coshocton Tribune, the Kankakee Daily Journal (Ill.) and the Vinton-Jackson Courier. He's a two-time award-winning journalist, a lifelong WWE fan, a suffering Bengals fan and calls the sidelines his home.

Wheelersburg starts conference slate with win over West

The Pirates move to 2-0 this season.

Brock Netter, Staff Writer

Southern Ohio Sports Authority is presented by OhioHealth.

WEST PORTSMOUTH — Seemingly, there are certain teams who simply have another team’s number. 

Wheelersburg’s Lexie Rucker helped the Pirates earn a win over West on Tuesday.
CREDIT: Brock Netter/SOSA

It can’t be explained. It’s just how it is. One perfect example is West and Wheelersburg. 

After Tuesday’s four-set victory — by a 25-13, 19-25, 25-9, 25-11 final — the Pirates (2-0, 1-0 SOC II) continued an impressive win streak over the Senators and one that spans well over a 15-year period.

When they play the Senators, they’re simply dialed in – pun intended. 

“There were times we had really good ball control, and maintained that control throughout the game while we were playing within the system,” Wheelersburg coach Allen Perry said. “West has a really good offense and can really put the ball down when they’re playing in their system. But we were able to keep them out of it and not let them get a rhythm.” 

Part of the Senators’ problem on Tuesday was that they had no answer at the net for Wheelersburg’s Gracie Perkins. 

The 6-foot middle hitter’s length was just too much to overcome, offensively and defensively, as each kill she logged — 10 on the evening — felt like a death blow every single time it took place.

“She’s such a big block up front,” Wheelersburg’s Kiera Kennard said of her teammate. “It makes things easier for us defensively with her at the net, and other teams have to start planning around her.” 

Tied 5-5 to open the first set, the Pirates began to create some distance as Perkins and Lexie Rucker, who led the team with 16 kills on the night, helped power a 6-1 run to take an 11-6 lead. 

Wheelersburg continued to pile up the points while West (1-1, 0-1 SOC II) struggled to find early footing, creating a double-digit lead and keeping it that way throughout the first set win. 

PHOTOS: Images from Wheelersburg’s win over West

The Senators fed the ball heavily to Maylynn Howell to open the second, and that decision proved to be a smart one. 

Howell had no issue putting the ball down, racking up five kills and helping her team out to a 13-8 lead. But despite the early wave of momentum, the Pirates kept their nose above water and managed to trim the deficit to 17-15. 

However, West didn’t lose its head and showed resilience, fighting to give itself a chance. The Senators went back to Howell on a pair of occasions and rallied to take the second set, tying the match.

“We’ve worked throughout the summer about controlling our emotions and fighting through adversity,” Perry said. “There are times that we go through these stages of going up and down, taking the roller coaster and playing sort of tight.” 

Though momentum temporarily flipped towards the Senators’ bench, it didn’t last long. Wheelersburg shot out to a quick 7-2 lead and the rout was on in the third. The Pirates sensed the Senators’ fatigue after the second set win and fed off it the rest of the way.

Not only did Wheelersburg hold West to under 10 points in the third, but it held its opponent to under 25 points total in the final two sets, emphatically making an early statement and earning a key league win.

“We don’t just play for three or five sets. We go all out on every single play,” Rucker said. “It’s all the little things we work on in practice like being disciplined, which is the main thing our coaches are always on us about. Don’t get too high or too low, and games like this are a good learning lesson for us.” 

After Rucker and Perkins’ final numbers, Kennard finished with 21 digs while Madison Whittaker added 20 digs and three aces. Makenna Walker passed out 42 assists on the evening. 

Wheelersburg returns to action on Thursday at home in SOC II action against South Webster, while West travels to Valley that same evening. 

“I think one thing that everyone forgets [about South Webster] is that while most of their hitters are gone from last season, the players they have now have been practicing against them for a year or two, so we know they’re going to be talented,” Perry said. “Success breeds success and [South Webster coach] Darcee [Claxon] does such a great job with those girls and that program. It’s one of those games our girls are always up for. We have to be incredibly sound, control what we can and be ready for a battle.”


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