DAYTON – After a magnificent regular season and lengthy postseason run, Adena’s volleyball season came to a close Thursday night.
The Warriors (23-5) had their state title hopes dashed with a straight-set loss to Huron in a Division III state semifinal, 25-15, 25-17, 25-14, at Wright State University’s Nutter Center.
“We’ve played hard all season and we’re not very big so we have to play hard,” Adena coach Laura Smith said. “Teams that are bigger than us make us work even that much more. Huron is a very good team with some very good hitters, and they were able to use their size as an advantage.”
The Tigers (24-4) boasted four players who were 5-foot-10 or taller; Adena came into the game with its tallest starter standing 5-7.
“We tried to at least slow things down on our blocks even though we knew we weren’t going to get kills that way,” Smith said. “They were so smart in being able to tip over, around and in a hole, so we were scrambling a lot of times. We’re used to playing that way, but it wears you down.”
Aside from bringing size into the matchup, the Tigers also brought an unmatched level of confidence.
“One thing we talked about was not being afraid to lose,” Huron coach Don Wood said. “Of course everybody hates to lose but, if you’re afraid to lose, it takes away from your comfort level of just going out there and playing. So that’s what we’re doing; just going out there and playing, relaxing and doing our jobs the best we can.”
That level of comfort was evident within the first set as the Tigers jumped out to a 9-4 lead. They then built off that momentum while taking advantages of 13-6, 16-8 and 22-11. That was, in part, because of lack of execution and unforced errors on the Warriors’ side of the net.
In the second set, Adena came out playing much better in a fundamental sense and with a higher level of energy. Although in an early 12-4 hole, the Warriors were able to claw their way back to within two points.
“We got a couple really good kills and when you do that, it just adds to your energy level,” said senior Kirsten Dawson, Adena’s setter. “When you get that energy, your team feeds off that and it makes you keep going and continues your offensive rhythm.”
But as the Warriors relied on their athleticism, the Tigers once again looked to their size while taking a 17-15 lead midway through before going on an 8-2 run.
During the third set, Adena had an early 6-5 lead, which proved to be their latest lead all night. Huron retook the lead at 7-6 and was able to ride the momentum to leads of 13-9, 16-10, 20-12 and, ultimately, a match victory.
“(Adena) is an awfully good team,” Wood said. “They play great defense and had some nice rallies where that defense really did a nice job out there. They just battled. And when you battle like they do, you’re going to keep yourself in games. Our advantage at the net was finally able to take its’ toll, but I’m not surprised at all that they battled the way they did.”
Senior Hannah Cantrill led the Tigers with 12 kills and 12 digs, while fellow senior Hadley Sterett added 10 kills and 12 digs. Sophomore Gabriella Wood dished out 20 assists and managed five digs.
Jenna Hutton led Adena with nine kills and eight digs, while Jessica Hutton posted six kills and nine digs. Dawson had 20 assists and 12 digs, while Bower had six kills, three assists and three digs.
The Tigers advanced to the state championship game, where they’ll take on the Gilmour Academy Lancers, who defeated Versailles in straight sets.
Adena now will say farewell to six seniors, four of whom were penciled into their starting lineup for much of this past season.
“We’ve worked really hard to get to where we are,” senior Karli Bower said. “We’ve come a long way. That’s all you can say really. We’re just proud to be here.”
“We have banners hanging in our gym and you get a banner if you make it to the final four,” Smith said. “These girls’ names will be hanging in our gym for as long as it is standing. They’ve stared at that all week long. It’s quite an accomplishment.”
Looking toward next year, the Warriors will use the experience they gained in the postseason and turn it into motivation.
“We dressed 15 (Thursday) and had four more being our managers today, just so they could be out there on the floor and experience the state tournament atmosphere,” Smith said. “It makes you hungry to want to come back. It’s exciting to be able to play in this facility.”