The Scioto Valley Conference continues showing its strength in volleyball this season as three of the eight teams — Adena, Westfall and Unioto — still are in the mix at the regional level.
More impressive was how the teams got here. In Division III, the Warriors nor the Mustangs have lost a set in three matches. Unioto fought a little harder in Division II district, winning 12 of their 14 sets in four matches.
As they enter regional play, each packs something different.
Youthful ambition favors Adena
Entering this season, Warrior coach Laura Smith knew she had a young team. She would not say they were rebuilding, but instead reloading. Still, she did not expect to be coaching this late.
“I told my husband back in August if we made it to regionals, that’d be a great season for us because we were 12-12 last year. We bettered that record by far,” Smith said of her Warriors.
Smith, who has been Adena’s coach for 28 years, said it was not until beating good nonleague teams at a weekend invitational did they find the group they needed on the floor to play to their highest potential.
The group started clicking better at practice and the momentum just kept building. The Warriors (16-6) closed their season against Unioto, Zane Trace and Westfall — the top tier in the SVC — and won all three. The wins provided a boost into the postseason. With every tournament win, that confidence has only grown.
“I’m seeing (growth) in practice yet today,” Smith said. “They’ve matured as a team and are helping each other out being more vocal. It’s really coming together at the right time.”
Adena plays Alexander at 7:30 p.m. today at Logan High School.
The Warriors might be a young team, but they are helped by knowing the Spartans are as young.
“Watching (Alexander) play against Huntington, (Alexander) was the underdog,” Smith said. “They didn’t have the better record and just got out there and played. If they won, it was just icing on the cake. There were no expectations. They’re like us. (My girls) are just happy to be out there. If we can both play relaxed, it will be a fun match.”
Westfall hoping for success this time
Reaching regionals is familiar to many of the Mustang players, as they got to this point in 2012. This year, however, they are hoping it lasts a bit longer.
After losing in a semifinal game to McNicholas in 2012, coach Jessica Rodgers’ is hoping her first-year success goes further.
Under Rodgers, Westfall won the SVC title with a 12-2 record.
Despite all their success, Rodgers said the Mustangs still lack confidence, which could cause the end of their season as they play a Ridgewood team at 6 p.m. today at Logan that finished 25-1 overall and 17-0 in the Inter-Valley Conference.
Westfall has height and experience, so playing its game and having confidence in itself will be key.
The tallest aren’t always the best
The McNicholas Rockets will invade Wilmington High School at 7:30 p.m. Thursday in a Division II regional semifinal boasting multiple players 6-feet and taller. The Unioto Shermans have one player, Hannah Nelson, at that height. However, Unioto coach Aaron Ridenour isn’t concerned.
The Shermans faced multiple teams in the regular season who might have had more height, but their 22-4 record proved height was not a factor. Against a Westfall team similar in height to McNicholas, the Shermans split two SVC matches against the Mustangs.
Besides, Unioto possesses experience the Rockets are said to lack.
“They appear to be a little taller and younger than us,” Ridenour said. “I think we’re really going to play on our experience. What’s key for us is just being fast offensively and controlling the ball and keeping it in play. Our offense is diverse. We can set a lot of different people and get kills from anywhere on the court. They can’t just pile up on one player.”
Ridenour said winning the Division II district also has provided the Shermans with a lot of confidence.
“In our last three matches, the teams we played were a combined 65-4,” Ridenour said. “There’s not too many teams who had to face that (amount of talent) three matches in a row.”
The Shermans are not getting ahead of themselves though and looking past McNicholas’ 17-8 regular season record.
“McNicholas is a Cincinnati team, and they’re level of play is always high,” Ridenour said. “They were playing good competition for the most part.”