WHEELERSBURG, Ohio — It’s the right time of year to break out the spell book.
Unfortunately for the Lady Eagles, they just didn’t have enough magic in their spells.
The Eastern volleyball team progressively got closer by night’s end, but second seeded Wheelersburg ultimately led wire-to-wire while advancing to the district championship with a 25-15, 25-16, 25-18 victory on Wednesday night in a Division III Southeast District semifinal match at WHS in Scioto County.
The 11th seeded Lady Eagles (15-8) never led at any point and trailed by at least 10 points in all three games, although the guests did force a pair of 3-all ties in the second and third sets.
The host Lady Pirates (22-1), however, withstood each and every challenge thrown at them by the Green and White, which ultimately allowed Wheelersburg to cruise to a straight-game decision and a date with Nelsonville-York on Friday in the district final.
The Lady Buckeyes defeated North Adams by a 25-12, 25-23, 25-14 count on Wednesday in the other D-3 district semifinal. The championship match will be played at Waverly with a tentative start time of 8:30 p.m.
The Orange and Black stormed out to a quick 4-0 lead in the opening game, but the Lady Eagles countered with a small 5-2 run to close back to within a point at 6-5.
WHS reeled off 10 of the next dozen points for a 16-7 edge and took its first double-digit lead at 22-12. The hosts also led 23-13 and eventually claimed their only double-digit win of the night for an early 1-0 match edge.
The Lady Pirates built a quick 3-0 lead in Game 2, only to have EHS rally back to tie things before breaking serve for a 4-3 edge. Emily Boggs followed with 11 consecutive service points and established what proved to be the largest lead of the night at 15-3.
Eastern managed to whittle the lead down to seven points on four separate occasions, the last of which came at 22-15. WHS won three of the final four points for a 9-point win and a 2-0 match cushion.
Wheelersburg broke away from a 3-all tie in Game 3 with five of the next six points, but the Lady Eagles retaliated with three of the next four points to close to within 9-7. The hosts followed with a 10-2 surge and built a 19-9 edge, but Eastern answered with a 9-4 run to pull back to within 23-18.
The Lady Pirates broke serve on the next point, then wrapped things up with one final service point to finish off the 3-0 match triumph.
In guiding Eastern to the program’s 22nd sectional championship and subsequent district appearance, first-year head coach Brandi Lanning spoke about the journey in a positive light.
She also believes that, with some offseason work, the future for this program can be even brighter.
“It’s definitely an honor to get to the district semifinals. The girls have had to learn new positions and learn a new coaching staff this year, but they also knew that we had high standards and goals set for them,” Lanning said. “These girls have grown quite a bit as the season progressed, especially with all of the obstacles that this season has presented. It’s not the way we wanted the season to end, but these kids — especially our seniors — really have stepped it up this year.
“We have some big shoes to fill with the seven seniors we are losing, but the kids know what we expect of them and we’ll all have a year together to build on next year. Hopefully this experience will help motivate them to get back to at least this point next year.”
Sydney Sanders led the Eastern service attack with six points, followed by Megan Maxon and Tessa Rockhold with five points each. Brielle Newland was next with three points, while Jenna Chadwell and Olivia Barber respectively completed things with two points and one point.
Rockhold and Chadwell provided two service aces apiece, with Sanders and Maxon also adding an ace each.
Barber led the net attack with five kills and nine blocks, with Chadwell adding five kills and a block as well. Maxon followed with four kills, while both Rockhold and Layna Catlett contributed two kills and three blocks each.
Newland dished a team-high 10 assists and Juli Durst also had four assists in the setback.
Boggs led WHS with 17 service points, followed by Jaiden Missler with 11 points. Lauren Jolly, Kiera Kennard and Lyndsay Heimbach had five points apiece, while Kaylee Darrell completed things with four points.
It was the final volleyball game for seniors Jenna Chadwell, Alisa Ord, Olivia Barber, Tessa Rockhold, Jonna Epple, Layna Catlett and Sydney Sanders in the Green and White.
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Bryan Walters can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2101.