CIRCLEVILLE, Ohio — The trip to the state semifinal on Friday was longer than the match itself.
That’s because the Ohio Valley Christian School Defenders, in needing only an hour of actual time, swept aside Calvary Christian 25-19, 25-11 and 25-11 in Friday’s first semifinal of the Ohio Christian School Athletic Association state volleyball tournament — held inside the Maxwell Center on the campus of Ohio Christian University in Circleville.
With the victory, the Defenders raised their stellar record to an impressive 23-1 — and advanced to Saturday’s state championship match against Mars Hill Academy.
Mars Hill, in the second semifinal on Friday night, swept Faith Christian Academy in straight games — 25-21, 25-18 and 25-16.
The championship tilt was set for Saturday at 4 p.m. at Ohio Christian University.
But perhaps, if the Defenders play against Mars Hill the way they did against the Spartans, then Ohio Valley Christian School will bring back another trophy to the Ohio Valley.
The Defenders never trailed in the final two games, winning both by 25-11 margins — and looking every bit the role of dominant throughout.
In the opening game, however, OVCS had to rally from a 16-12 deficit, flipping the switch to winning 13 of the game’s final 16 points to triumph 25-19.
The Spartans scored just 25 points combined after leading 16-12 in the first set, while OVCS notched the necessary 25 points three times.
“At any given time on any given night, my girls can play very well,” said OVCS head coach Heather Priddy. “They take the skills that they learn and the skills that they know and if they show up, they are going to play very well. So no this doesn’t surprise me. We just never know how the other team is going to play or going to react.”
The shell-shocked Spartans didn’t react well, committing several errors at the same time the Defenders began to throw down kills and collect aces.
After a pair of lead changes and three early ties in the opening game, Calvary Christian led 16-12 following an OVCS attack error.
But a Cori Hutchinson kill, a Hutchison ace and back-to-back Spartan attack errors tied the set at 16-16 —before another tie at 17-17, as OVCS regained the lead for good.
Marcie Kessinger landed an ace for a 21-18 OVCS advantage, as the Spartans scored their final point of the game on a service error.
A double hit by the Spartans, a Katie Westfall kill, a Rachel Sargent ace and a Katie Bradley kill closed out the first game in OVCS’ favor.
Priddy was asked what the momentum-shifter was — after OVCS fell behind and uncharacteristically committed errors early on.
“The turning point for me and for the girls was we have a goal. They set a goal (to win state championship). I spoke to them about it,” said the coach. “I told them we have a goal and do you want to meet this goal or not? At that point, their attitudes changed and they kicked into gear and they started playing to the best of their ability.”
The Defenders — the OCSAA Southeast Region champions — definitely did that.
They broke a 1-1 tie in the second set by reeling off five points in a row, then later scored seven consecutive to stake a 15-4 advantage.
A Hutchison kill and a Spartan attack error made it 19-6, as the Defenders’ leads swelled to 23-9 and 24-10 — before a Calvary hitting error ended game two.
In game three, the Defenders scored the opening five points — then posted runs of four, three, three and finally four more points in a row to make it 21-8.
A Spartan service error ended the third game —and the overall match in only an hour.
For Calvary Christian, winners of the Northwest Region, its season ends at 12-8.
Meanwhile, the Defenders’ focus was now on Saturday’s state title bout — against Mars Hill from the Southwest Region.
Priddy’s preference of opponent, however, mattered none — as long as the Defenders did their normal thing.
“My whole philosophy is we play our game. I don’t care who we play and I don’t care what they can do. We play our game,” she said. “And if we play our game the way we have been taught how to play it, we can do whatever we want.”
Paul Boggs can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2106