PATASKALA – Granville coach Todd Parkison told his team this week to expect a challenge from Lakewood
It took until Thursday for that message to sink in. The second-seeded Blue Aces were tested by the Lancers, but they overcame them for the third time this season, 23-25, 25-20, 25-16, 25-18, at Licking Heights to advance to the Division II district finals for the second consecutive season.
Granville (22-3) plays Bishop Hartley at 1 p.m. Saturday at Heights. The Blue Aces fell to the Hawks in a 2014 district final.
“It’s definitely challenging for us, but I think we do a really good job of keeping together as a unit, going in hard and getting the job done,” said junior setter Brooklyn Holthaus, of being a highly-seeded team. “We had played them in the league and won both times, so coming in, it gave a little bit of a step up and confidence in ourselves.”
Lakewood coach Rex Carr said his team has been playing as well as it has all season, and it showed in the first set. The Lancers mixed the power of Courtney Vierstra in the middle, the finesse of Megan Davis and Sydney Houdeshell on the outside and the all-around talents of senior Elaina Davenport to grab the early lead.
The Lancers led by seven on two occasions before Granville came charging back, tying the set at 21 and 22 before Davenport’s back set ended it.
The second set featured 14 ties, and the Blue Aces finally pushed past the Lancers with the help of their freshest faces. Freshmen Erin Shomaker and Jenn Rush each had late kills to help the Blue Aces tie the match.
“If one person is down, we have someone else that can step in and take that spot,” Holthaus said. “If there are not in it mentally that one time or if they make a couple mistakes, there is always someone else we can go to and trust to get the job done.”
Christina Harrison took over in the third set. After finishing the second set, the sophomore had four early kills and a block as Granville ran away with the third set.
Harrison led Granville with 19 kills and 26 digs, and Holthaus added seven kills, 24 digs and 44 assists.
“It was a good day. It was a good day,” Harrison said. “Honestly, I have to say it wasn’t just me. Obviously, it was my teammates. I have faith in everyone.”
Lakewood made one more charge in the fourth set. Houdeshell had a pair of kills to keep the Lancers with an early advantage. She had seven kills, Vierstra and Courtney Knepper five kills apiece, Davenport 24 assists and Erica Belknap 40 digs.
“We have grown since the tournament started,” Carr said. “We got a little momentum there coming out and beating the No. 6 seed. We knew we had it in us, but we just couldn’t finish (Thursday).”
The Blue Aces’ size and depth, however, eventually overwhelmed the Lancers. Shomaker led a defensive attack that altered and deflected a number of Lakewood attempts.
Parkison proved to be a soothsayer. The Blue Aces will have to hope his prediction is as good Saturday.
“I knew Lakewood didn’t have the season that they wanted to have, and this was their chance to finish on a very high note,” Parkison said. “I knew we were going to get every bit of four or five games.”