Derrick Webb, Staff Writer
Southern Ohio Sports Authority is presented by OhioHealth.
FRANKFORT — With Unioto leading 7-4 in the deciding fifth set on Tuesday, coach Laura Smith called a timeout to regroup her Warriors.
And like they have time and time again during her career, Smith’s words must’ve struck a chord.
Out of the break, Adena ripped off a 5-1 run before taking a 12-11 lead. That provided just enough momentum to allow the Warriors to cross the finish line and stay perfect with a 15-12 victory in one of the SVC’s early-season thrillers.
“I thought [Unioto] played aggressive defense and they didn’t let things fall. And, I don’t think we did that,” Smith said. “We just seemed to catch breaks. When it was finally over, I thought, ‘How did we come out on top?’ I thought Syd [Foglesong] and Hannah [Burns] did a very good job of just pulling through for us in the clutch. They kept the rest of the kids together.”
Foglesong and Burns were Unioto’s kryptonite all match. The Warriors’ senior duo, as Smith alluded to, consistently kept Adena (7-0, 3-0 SVC) in the thick of things with their play at the net and timely points.
Those two, alongside fellow senior Brenna McQuiniff, have been the team’s motor throughout its first seven matches.
“[McQuiniff] is big in our back row, she plays smart and she’s got a nice serve,” Smith said. “She plays with poise and knows where she needs to be. Those three seniors are back from last year. They’ve been on the court since their freshman year and that’s a big source of what’s keeping us together.”
This past weekend, Adena won three matches to take home the Lehman Catholic Invitational title — no easy task in itself. Needless to say, on Tuesday, with Unioto (7-2, 2-1 SVC) coming to Frankfort, the schedule didn’t get any easier.
However, Smith’s group showed grit and even in their lowest moments, played with tenacity.
“They didn’t give up. That’s for sure,” Smith said. “They found a way to do it, and they got the ball to the kids with the experience that could do it for us. They’re good kids and they work hard. There’s just some finer things that if we take care of, hopefully it won’t look so ugly.”
Tale of the tape
The first set, like the rest of the match, was a seesaw affair. Burns gave Adena an 11-10 lead with an ace before Unioto’s Ella Cutright followed suit for a 12-12 deadlock. Cutright’s ace sparked a 6-2 run, which ended with a kill from Kyra Stulley, to put the Shermans ahead 18-14.
But that’s when Burns got back to work, powering a 5-1 run to put Adena back in the lead at 20-19. From there, the Warriors’ senior continued to pick apart Unioto’s defense to help her team take a 1-0 lead in the match with a 25-20 victory.
Unioto struck back in the second behind the performance of Cutright and Jade Stewart. Stewart logged back-to-back kills for an early 8-3 lead before Foglesong helped put Adena ahead 11-10.
Later, with the Warriors leading 16-14, Cutright scored back-to-back points to force a tie before finishing off 7-0 run for a 21-16 advantage. Stewart then closed out a 25-21 win, forcing a 1-1 tie in the match.
After more back-and-forth action in the third, Foglesong and Burns spearheaded an 8-1 run midway through to put the Warriors up 23-13. That was more than enough force to power a 25-17 victory, putting Adena up 2-1.
“We’ve been through a lot of tough games like that,” Burns said. “In those situations, you just have to keep your head on [straight] and get it done. There’s just a lot of little stuff we need to work on, but we’ll get there. We’re really solid but we need to work on the little stuff.”
Cutright gave Unioto a 15-12 lead in fourth set with an ace before Brooke Bossert stepped to the service line and helped Adena force a 15-15 deadlock. After ties at 16, 17, 19 and 20, Stewart and Abbie Marshall put the Shermans ahead for good in the midst of a 25-21 win to force a fifth and final go-around.
Adena took a quick 1-0 lead but Stulley, Alli Park and Addi Platt sparked a 7-4 Sherman lead, forcing Smith to take a timeout.
The Warriors then took an 11-10 lead before Unioto’s Sophie Coleman made a tremendous play on the defensive side to keep the ball alive, helping her Shermans tie the game at 11-11. However, back-to-back kills from Foglesong helped seal Unioto’s fate as the Warriors put away a 15-12, match-clinching victory.
“We’ve definitely made a lot of improvements this season, even since the beginning of the summer,” Foglesong said. “I feel like we have a lot of younger players with not a lot of varsity experience. They’re getting the hang of it really quickly. It’s really nice to be on a team with them. But the little things are big. That makes the game.”
Burns led Adena with 20 kills and 16 digs while Foglesong added 17 of her own alongside two blocks. Caroline Corcoran also helped out with seven kills and six digs, Bossert turned in a team-high 24 digs, McQuiniff had 18 digs and a pair of aces, and Grace Townsend logged 41 assists and 16 digs.
Unioto was led by Stewart with 13 kills while Cutright totaled eight kills and four aces. Marshall also helped the Shermans with 11 kills, 16 assists and 14 digs while Madelyn Wetzel tallied a team-high 20 assists. Megan Miller led the team defensively with 16 digs, Emma Specht added 10 digs of her own, and Platt had seven kills.
What’s on tap
Both teams are back in conference action on Thursday. Unioto hosts Paint Valley while the Warriors travel to Zane Trace for, by all accounts, a massive matchup with the Pioneers.
“This team has goals and they want to win,” Smith said. “They’ll work to get it done. They just have to play disciplined and do their jobs. It’ll happen eventually. They’ll start trusting each other.”