Riders Claim 5th Straight Sectional Title

Members of the St. Marys volleyball team celebrate after the Roughriders scored the deciding point to win Saturday's sectional final.
Sports Editor

The St. Marys Roughriders claimed their fifth straight Division II sectional crown on Saturday in what was possibly their best performance of the season as a lesser seed on the road in a 27-25, 17-25, 25-22, 25-22 victory against Wauseon.

The Roughriders (13-11) return to Bluffton University’s Sommer Center for the district tournament, as they will play Celina (14-9) in a semifinal match at 8 p.m. on Tuesday.

And at this point, the Riders come in as one of the hotter teams in the tournament with wins in six of their last seven matches.

In the Roughriders’ last two matches, the opposing team opened the match by winning the first set, but Saturday, the Roughriders took set one.
St. Marys was the first to reach five points; leading 5-3 after a Makenna Mele kill.

Wauseon, however, went on a 7-0 run to take a 10-5 lead. The set went between a three- to a five-point difference until Wauseon pulled away slightly with a 19-13 lead, but St. Marys pulled within two, down 20-18, after a 4-1 run with an Aaleyiah Williams kill and block and an ace by Abbie Young during that stretch.

After an exchange of points, St. Marys ended the set on a 9-3 run, which included two lead changes and ended on a Williams’ kill.

Wauseon opened set two with a 4-0 lead, but the Roughriders tied the game at 6-6 with a 5-1 run on a Williams’ block, kills from Claire and Danielle Bertke and an ace by Madi Howell.
The second set was not separated by more than three points and eventually tied again at 12-12, but the Indians ended the set on a 13-5 run to tie the match at 1-1.

The third set contained six lead changes with neither team taking more than a four-point lead at any time throughout.

With the set tied at 4-4, St. Marys scored the next four points with Cherissa Priddy serving to take an 8-4 lead. The sophomore picked up an ace, while Mele recorded two kills and Sam Ackroyd picked up another point with a tip at the net, but the Indians answered by scoring five of the set’s next six points to tie it at 9-9.

Two more lead changes ensued before the Roughriders went on a 3-0 advantage to hand them a lead they never relinquished on a Carly Caywood kill and back-to-back kills by Mele for a 16-14 lead.
Riding that momentum allowed St. Marys to finish the set by scoring three of the final four points, including kills from Danielle Bertke and Mele, to take a 2-1 set lead.

Set four also had six lead changes, but it was also the best performance St. Marys has had in any set this season.

Following a timeout trailing 12-16, St. Marys finished the set on a 13-6 advantage, including a 4-0 run to tie the game at 16-16 with two kills from Danielle Bertke and an ace by Williams.
After the Indians pushed a lead back to three, 19-16, St. Marys responded  by tying  the set again, this time at 20-20 after a Howell ace.

At that point, the Roughriders’ middle play of Williams, Ackroyd and Bertke helped neutralize Wauseon’s two best attackers in Lexi Sauber and Sydney Zirkle as the Riders’ tandem tallied three straight blocks late in the match. From there, St. Marys ended the match by scoring the final three points with Ackroyd serving.

For the full story, read Monday's print edition of The Evening Leader.