Waynedale Golden Bears

Barn burner: Golden Bears and Red Riders go toe-to-toe in district semifinal

The number-three-seed Orrville Red Riders (15-9) returned to what has over the years been the friendly confines of Wilbur Berkey Fieldhouse to face the number-two-seed Waynedale Golden Bears (20-4) in a Div. III Northeast District semifinal volleyball match on Wednesday, Oct. 25. The Red Riders won the first two sets, but the Golden Bears came from behind to win an instant-classic five-set barn burner, 23-25, 19-25, 25-16, 25-18, 15-13.

Orrville was the three-time defending district champion, and the Golden Bears were standing in the way of the Lady Riders making a fifth straight trip to the district finals.

Waynedale’s head coach Jodi Shilling was successful this week in getting her team in the proper frame of mind for the challenge against Orrville and making a deep tournament run. “We started to ask ourselves some things this week such as ‘why not us?’ We’ve kind of been on the short end of some sticks in the past. We haven’t reached the district finals since I’ve been here and only once before in our program’s history. We’ve had some pretty good teams, and have won our league three times now. Why not us? Why shouldn’t we be the team that gets to go farther in the tournament?”

Orrville stepped on the floor and was ready to play. In fact they probably put together their two best sets of the year and caught Waynedale a bit off balance. Orrville’s defense was on point with their floor coverage, and sharp, precision passing made life easy on senior setter Maddie Eyler, who seemingly placed the ball wherever she wanted, which allowed Orrville junior Shadra Hamsher, senior Riley Renner and senior Ally Brown to freely swing away at the net. With the score knotted up at 7-7, a strong kill by Brown swung momentum in the Riders’ favor and sparked a 7-1 scoring binge that resulted in Orrville’s 14-8 advantage.

After a Waynedale timeout, the Bears recovered and clawed their way back into the first set to knot it all up at 20-20 behind the strong play of senior Maggie Coblentz and freshman Brooklyn Troyer.

Orrville’s solid all-around team play overcame Waynedale’s comeback bid, and the Lady Riders earned the first-set victory 25-23.

The match was shaping into a slugfest, and it continued into the second set with both teams trading attack after attack and defenders doing their best to keep each ball in play. Hamsher and Renner continued pounding the ball for Orrville, and Waynedale’s Coblentz was on fire. In fact both opposing middle hitters (Renner and Coblentz) played great all night, leaving it all on the floor as you would expect from two senior leaders not wanting their high school careers to end.

It was another tightly played set until Orrville pulled away at the end and captured the 25-19 victory to take what appeared to be a commanding 2-0 lead in the match.

The Bears found themselves down 2-0, and they hadn’t been in a five-set match this season. They easily could have caved, quit, bickered and blamed each other for finding themselves in such a rough spot. Instead, they chose to inspire one another, refused to quit and jumped all over Orrville to start the third set with an 8-1 scoring binge of their own. The Rider defense had fallen into complacency, and the Golden Bears’ offense finessed their way by dinking and dumping shots into Orrville’s short defensive gaps.

It also didn’t hurt that freshman Sara Ice gained some confidence with her swing, and Coblentz continued to unleash the fury on Orrville to push the Golden Bears to a 20-10 advantage.

Orrville’s Brown tried to help stage a Red Rider comeback bid, but it wasn’t enough as the Bears went on to win the third set 25-16.

The fourth set was another show of some fantastic volleys and defensive saves by both teams, power and grace both on display at the net. Bodies were flying everywhere to keep the ball in play and create an opportunity to score.

Despite an exhaustive effort performed in the previous three sets, Coblentz was just as effectively dominant at the net in the fourth set for the Waynedale attack. Both teams found themselves all square at the midway point of the fourth set until Coblentz ripped another gut shot into the belly of the Rider defense.

Waynedale went on another run behind some well-placed short dumps into the middle of Orrville’s defensive alignment, but the Riders fought back as Hamsher and junior Mikaila Carpenter began to get back into the swing of things.

Waynedale was ready for the Orrville comeback bid and shut it down on Brooklyn Troyer’s roll shot to seal the Golden Bears’ capturing of the fourth set, 25-18, and forcing the match into a fifth and deciding set tie-breaker.

In the deciding fifth-set tie-breaker, Orrville held a slim 5-3 lead after a smash out of the middle by Hamsher couldn’t be dug up by the Bears defense, but Waynedale stuck together, cobbled a string of points and were holding a 10-8 lead until Orrville’s Renner strung together a kill out of the middle, followed by a huge solo block off an Ice attack, and one more fire ball out of her middle position. Renner had just played the Riders into three straight points and an 11-10 advantage.

Waynedale regrouped and tied the set up, and Coblentz once again rose to the occasion for the Golden Bears on a deep shot out of the middle that deflected off of Orrville’s dig attempt to give the Bears a 14-13 game-point advantage.

The Bears capped off the thrilling semifinal victory when their double-block on Hamsher’s attack fell to the floor, setting off a wild celebration and providing an answer to coach Shilling’s questioning challenge to her team earlier in the week. This year’s Bears believe in themselves and refuse to quit. There are no short sticks laying around this bunch.

Shilling was exhausted but thrilled after the match. “The girls really pushed. Our seniors really took hold and got aggressive with our mind-set, and the team just really wanted it. These are the types of games that we practice for. I couldn’t be more proud of the way our girls responded after being down 0-2 and holding their ground to win it in five. That is the first time we’ve played a five-set match this season. Now we get to come back and do it again against another tough team on Saturday, and we will see what happens. Ours girls are tough, and it showed tonight.”

For Waynedale, Maggie Coblentz finished with 23 kills on 52 attempts with nine digs, two solo blocks and three block assists. Rowe had 11 kills on 32 attempts, three digs and a solo block. Ice ended up with 10 kills on 25 attempts, two digs and a solo block. Lyndsey Troyer led the Golden Bears with 24 assists to go along with eight digs and an ace. Brooklyn Troyer stuffed the stat sheet with 19 assists, four kills, 11 digs and a solo block. Jade Mast led the team defensively with 23 digs. Lexi Weaver also had a great night on defense with 15 digs and an ace.

Orrville head coach Sandra Davault hoped to see her Lady Riders pull out a tough match. “We started off really well in the first two sets, but in the end they executed, and we didn’t. It was a battle between two good teams tonight, but give Waynedale credit. They did what needed to be done tonight. I think we surprised them to open the match. Our girls came out and played really well to start, but we have typically struggled in the third set this year. I thought the girls could fight through it tonight, but we were caught standing, watching balls, and that can’t happen at this stage. Waynedale grabbed the momentum and hung on to it. We fought back and played hard. We just fell short. We had some great moments this season. It is sad to see it come to an end for our six graduating seniors.”

Hamsher paced the Red Riders with 24 kills on a whopping 60 attempts to go along with 18 digs, 16 assists, two block assists and an ace. Renner finished with 13 kills, 16 digs, two solo blocks and three blocking assists. Brown had four kills, one block assist, 13 serve receptions and two digs. Eyler ran Orrville’s attack with 27 assists to go with 18 digs. Defensively Ashley Kinnaird ended up with 31 serve receptions and 14 digs while Allie Emler (24 serve receptions, 12 digs) and Emma Horsburgh (13 serve receptions, 14 digs) did a nice job of covering the floor.

The Golden Bears will face the number-one-seed Canton Central Catholic Crusaders (20-4) on Saturday, Oct. 28 at 2 p.m. in Wilbur Berkey Fieldhouse at Smithville High School. The Crusaders dispatched Chippewa in their district semifinal match 25-13, 25-14, 25-19.

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