PDT Sports Writer
LANCASTER — Beaver Eastern has yet to drop a set all year, but the streak came close Wednesday night to disappearing.
Newark Catholic gave Eastern all it could handle in the second set of a Division IV Regional Volleyball Semifinal at Lancaster High School before the Eagles (26-0) claimed the set, and eventually their second regional match in as many years over the Green Wave (25-2), 25-15, 31-29, 25-21.
Eastern moves on to Saturday’s regional final against Plain City Shekinah Christian, which defeated Reedsville Eastern 25-21, 25-17, 15-16 in the second semifinal of the night. It’s the fourth time for the Eagles senior class has advanced to the Elite Eight and they are still looking for the first trip to the state tournament in school history.
“My seniors have a lot of tournament experience, they’ve been here every year and have been to the regional finals,” Eastern coach Janet Day said. “I don’t think that at any point they didn’t think they were going to lose this match. I think they knew they were going to be pushed though.”
The Green Wave defense had a hard time with the serve of senior Brittany Mounts in the first set as she turned an 11-8 lead into an 18-8 advantage before Newark Catholic could break her serve. Mounts finished with a team-high 37 assists on the night.
“I think I have a well-balanced team,” Day said. “I’ve got the small, quick girls in the back court, I’ve got the tall girls in the front court and all-around an athletic team. You have to have that combination, (and) there are years where we’ve had a little bit of this and that, but this year we have the combination.”
Despite being down 24-21 late in the second set, the Green Wave rallied with four-straight points and pushed the Eagles to the brink of losing their first set since being swept in last year’s regional final by Reedsville Eastern. That’s when the Brown and White would trade a total of seven points with Newark Catholic to set up a serve by junior Bailey Helton.
When asked, Day chuckled and agreed that at one point she didn’t know when this set would end.
“They kept playing just for the point,” Day said. “They weren’t thinking back about how close it was. We really talked to them about playing that point that’s going on right now and don’t worry about the last mistake.”
Eastern would finally take control of the set and give Helton—who finished with 14 kills, five blocks and an ace—a second-straight serve and a chance to claim the set. The Green Wave would give itself another chance to serve but Mounts’ serve eventually finished off the set.
Newark Catholic did take an 8-5 lead in the third set but the Eagles went on to score five out of the set’s next six points to take the lead and never trail again. The Green Wave did tie the set at 19-19 but Eastern would hold them to a pair of points to close out the contest.
Miranda Clark finished with 16 kills and two aces and Rhyanna Day recorded 13 digs as team leaders for each statistic. Coach Day has been impressed with Clark’s improvement from last year to this year.
“She’s just jumping higher,” Days said. “Her vertical increased and Bailey’s been a major factor this year. She wasn’t even in our rotation last year.”
Cody Leist can be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 242, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Reedsville Eastern 25 31 25
Newark Catholic 15 29 21