LONDONDERRY, Ohio — For the first time this year, the Gallia Academy volleyball team trailed in a match. But by the end of the match, just like in all 24 of their other matches, the Blue Angels were victorious.
GAHS is headed to its first district final since 2001, as the top-seeded Blue Angels won the final two games of Wednesday’s semifinal to complete a 3-2 victory over second-seeded Unioto, at Southeastern High School.
Gallia Academy (25-0) led 3-1 in the first game, but the Lady Shermans (21-4) — who finished second in the Scioto Valley Conference — took a lead at 4-3 and never trailed again. Unioto led by as much as 12 in the opening game and eventually won by a 25-15 final.
The UHS victory in the opening game ended the Blue Angels’ streak of 33 consecutive game wins. It’s the first time since September 17 that Gallia Academy has dropped a game, and it marked the first time the Blue Angels have trailed in a match this season.
Gallia Academy answered in fine fashion, however, never trailing in the second game on its way to a 25-16 win, that tied the match at one game apiece.
The Blue Angels led by as much as three, early in the third game, but Unioto took the advantage at 13-11. Gallia Academy regained the edge with four straight points, but UHS answered with a 6-0 run and never trailed again. The Lady Shermans won the third game by a 25-21 final, reestablishing the one-game lead.
The Purple and Gold charged out to a four-point lead in the fourth game, but GAHS fought back to take a lead at 8-7. The teams exchanged the lead five more times, before UHS opened up a 19-16 advantage.
Unioto was four points away from the district final at 21-19, but GAHS scored the next five of the next six points and won 25-22, forcing a fifth game.
Gallia Academy had been to a winner-take-all game twice this season, but the Blue Angels hadn’t played a fifth game or a game to 15, as both previous deciding games took place at invitational tournaments.
Unioto led 1-0 and 2-1 in the deciding game, but GAHS took the advantage at 4-2. UHS tied the game up at five and again at six, but the Blue Angels claimed five straight points and led 11-6. The Lady Shermans got as close as three, but Gallia Academy held on for the 15-11 win, capping off the 3-2 victory.
“They responded really well,” Gallia Academy head coach Janice Rosier said. “They don’t know how to lose. We were so nervous in the first game and we just needed to settle down. Once they settled down, in the second game, they played really well. They played our game and it was much better. (Unioto) out-sized us, they were hitting over our blocks and we had to adjust to that.”
Gallia Academy’s service attack was led by freshman Alex Barnes with 14 points and one ace. Seniors Brooke Pasquale and Jenna Meadows both had eight points and one ace in the win, while senior Carly Shriver marked seven points and three aces. Next was senior Ryleigh Caldwell with five points and one ace, followed by junior Grace Martin with four service points.
Martin led the Blue and White at the net with 26 kills and five solo blocks. Barnes posted 12 kills and one block for the victors, Meadows was next with eight kills, followed by Caldwell with five kills and sophomore Hunter Copley with two kills.
Shriver posted a match-best 53 assists for the Blue Angels. The GAHS defense was led by Pasquale with 39 digs, and Martin with 25.
Madi Eberst led UHS with 14 service points and two aces, followed by Abbey Winegardner with 11 points. Ashley Taylor charged the Lady Shermans at the net with 27 kills, while Amanda McGlone contributed 11 kills and one block. Eberst also had a team-best 48 assists, while Hallie Pinkerton led the Unioto defense with 25 digs.
Gallia Academy will be back at Southeastern High School for the Division II District Final against fellow top-seed Logan Elm.
“I have to let the girls rest a little bit, they played hard tonight.” said Rosier. “We have to get them a little breather, I even have a couple that are playing sick. We’ve scouted Logan Elm and they are a great team, so we have to be ready.”
The Lady Braves also hold a 25-0 record on the season and advanced to the district final by sweeping Athens, in the first game at SHS on Wednesday.
Gallia Academy finished ninth in the final Ohio High School Volleyball Coaches Association Division II poll, while Logan Elm finished fifth.
Alex Hawley can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2100.