WAVERLY – The drought is officially over.
With a four-set win over Ironton in a Division III District Semifinal, the Zane Trace Pioneers advanced to their first district title game since 2012.
The Pioneers’ two seniors — Kelly Dresbach and Katie Unger — led the way in a 25-13, 22-25, 25-10 and 25-18 victory over No. 7 seeded Ironton, Wednesday night at Waverly High School.
“This is amazing,” Dresbach said. “We did it with teamwork. It all centers around that. A district final game is intense and we’re going to bring fire to it. We just have to keep working as a team and limiting the errors. That’s working for us.”
Dresbach and Unger were anxious freshmen watching from the bench during the Pioneers 2012 run. This year, they’ll be in the midst of the action.
“It’s very rewarding when you see younger players get this experience,” Zane Trace coach Lori Koker said. “During (2012), they were on JV and they were able to watch and get the medals and everything like that. Now they’re living it. They’ve hung in there, moved up the ranks and now they’re the leaders. That’s what a program is all about.”
Dresbach was spectacular all night long, especially at the net. Time and time again, the captain provided an answer when her team needed it most.
That observation was never more apparent than in the first set.
After Zane Trace (15-9) had jumped out to an early 13-6 lead behind the efforts of Justine Pontius and Morgan Arledge at the serving line, Dresbach took it from there.
With the Pioneers nurturing an 18-13 lead, Dresbach ripped off a 7-0 including two aces to put the first set on ice, 25-13.
In the second, the Tigers (6-14) fought back with an answer of their own.
Ironton seized leads of 6-2, 13-7 and 20-14 before Dresbach anchored a 7-2 Zane Trace’ run to cut the deficit to 22-21. But the Tigers then went on a 4-0 burst to end it and tie the match, 1-1, with a 25-22 victory.
However, in the third, Zane Trace looked completely dominant — once again with strong performances at the net and in the serving area.
Both Arledge and Ashton Ward led serving runs of 6-0 as Zane Trace breezed to a 25-10 win, taking a 2-1 lead in the match.
“We had a lot of aces,” Koker said. “But I still think we played a little timid. I’m not taking anything away from Ironton. They played really well. But we worked on serving aggressively and we finally got in the groove again.”
The fourth and final set belonged to Dresbach and, later, sophomore Taylor Pepin.
Behind those two, the Pioneers took their first lead at 3-2 and never looked back en route to a 25-18 match-clinching victory.
“Kelly has always been a really smart player. Sometimes, she’ll even overthink things. But if she just plays, I would put her volleyball intelligence up there with anybody,” Koker said. “Then Taylor has had a couple of good practices. Her leaping abilities have come from somewhere. I think it has to do with confidence. Our players have made her feel welcome and a part of the team and she’s just fueling off it.”
Dresbach finished with 12 kills, four aces, three blocks and 10 digs while Unger had 12 kills and 35 digs. Pontius followed with 12 kills and 15 digs, Arledge chipped in with seven aces, three kills and 18 digs and Ward added 39 assists and 21 digs.
Zane Trace will now meet Scioto Valley Conference foe Adena, Saturday at Waverly High School at approximately 2:30 p.m. with a Division III district crown on the line.
In the two teams’ two previous meetings this year, the Warriors have swept Zane Trace in both instances.
“In our last two games, we might have had a little pressure on us,” Koker said. “Saturday, we’ve got to put that pressure on Adena.”