Riders Scratch Cougars Out Of Postseason

St. Marys' Aaleyiah Williams (3) and Makenna Mele (12) leap to block Van Wert's Megan Bruan's hit over the net in Wednesday's Division II sectional semifinal.
Sports Editor

As St. Marys opened postseason play with a home sectional semifinal against four-win Van Wert, one would not have been surprised if the Roughriders defeated their Western Buckeye League foe in straight sets on Wednesday.

But the Cougars unexpectedly won the opening set and kept the Riders on their heels, but the No. 7 seeded St. Marys squad prevailed, 27-29, 25-14, 25-22, 25-19 as they will compete for its fifth straight sectional title on Saturday.

The Roughriders (12-11) — who are above .500 for the first time this season after Wednesday’s win — will travel to Wauseon (17-5) to play the No. 3 seeded Indians at 2 p.m. on Saturday as part of the Bluffton District in Division II.

The Cougars won the opening set of Wednesday’s contest primarily because of the Roughriders’ miscues.

St. Marys committed eight service errors and 11 errors overall in that first set, which allowed Van Wert (4-19) to stick around and eventually claim momentum.

After a Sam Ackroyd kill to hand the serve to Cherissa Priddy with a 5-4 lead, the Riders scored the next two points, including an ace, for a 7-4 advantage.

But kill attempts that landed out of bounds on three occasions and a pair of one-point serves by St. Marys allowed the Cougars to take an 8-10 lead after Aaleyiah Williams’ kill hit landed out of bounds.

Two tied scores ensued as the Roughriders climbed back to grab a 19-16 lead on a Danielle Bertke kill to prompt a Van Wert timeout as part of a 4-1 run by St. Marys.

A series of points exchanged by both teams gave the Riders a 24-20 lead, but they failed to close out the opening set as the Cougars claimed a pair of kills and an ace to tie the set at 24-24.

A pair of errors late by St. Marys propelled the Cougars as they outlasted the Roughriders to take set one.

St. Marys to escaped a tight second set early by outscoring the Cougars 13-3 to jump out to a 19-8 lead.

That run included three kills by Makenna Mele and two blocks and a kill by Claire Bertke.

Kills late by Bertke and Ackroyd evened the match at 1-1.

St. Marys relied on a 9-0 rally after opening set three trailing 5-3, but led 12-5 after its run thanks to eight straight points at the line by Danielle Bertke and a kill by Mele during that stretch.

Van Wert climbed back with a 9-3 advantage to eventually close the seven-point gap to a 15-15 tie, using a pair of kills and aces. However, the Roughriders ended the set with a 6-1 run, aided by a violation on Van Wert, two kills by Mele and one block by Williams and Mele and a block by Claire Bertke for a 2-1 set lead.

The Roughriders took a 9-8 lead and raced out to a 13-9 advantage with a 5-1 run, but a 9-5 Van Wert rally pulled the game at 19-18 before St. Marys ended the fourth set and the match with a 6-1 advantage on two kills by Mele, one kill by Williams and a match-ending kill by Danielle Bertke.

The Roughriders travel to Wauseon as they look to claim their fifth straight Division II sectional title.