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Elder, Moeller, Hilliard Darby, Mt. Vernon advance to Cincinnati versus Columbus semifinal
July 20, 2010
By Jim Jicha
Elder upends top-ranked St. Edward to avenge Centerville Elite loss
Cincinnati Elder overcame a sluggish start and defeated top ranked Lakewood St. Edward in a Division I state quarterfinal feverishly anticipated by fans eager to see history in the making.
A perennial power in the northeast, St. Edward had been consistently unsuccessful in getting past Cincinnati’s top Greater Catholic League teams at state or in other major tournaments.
Last year the Eagles came agonizingly close in a semifinal last year with Archbishop Moeller, and when they avenged that loss at their season opening quad (against a very different Moeller lineup missing its top outside), people took note. Proving that was no fluke, St. Edward totally dominated a healthy Moeller squad in game four, and rallied to win 25-16, 22-25, 17-25, 25-9, 15-13 in the first round of the Centerville Elite. Next the Eagles prevailed over Elder in a 32-30, 25-22, 29-27 dog fight that was straight set in name only. They completed a three-match sweep of GCL teams, taking down St. Xavier in the final for their first Elite crown.
The Eagles finished the season ranked number one in the state, despite a subsequent loss to Lakota West.
Fans had good reason to be excited, but history was not about to transpire. After a sluggish start about which Elder Coach Sean Tierney could only say “I wish I knew why”, the Panthers toppled the Eagles off their lofty aerie 14-25, 25-22, 25-19, 25-22.
St. Edward First Team All-State and North Region Player of the Year sophomore middle blocker Owen McAndrews started things off by terminating a Chris Royer short set. Panther junior outside Matt Moehring answered with a blast from left side.
A net serve followed, and the Eagles took the lead, for good as it turned out, as Elder hit long after St. Edward junior outside Mike Powers dug a previous smash, McAndrews blocked Moehring and Second Team All-State senior outside Andrew Winter terminated a cross-court shot for a 5-1 lead.
After point trading to 11-8, McAndrews paced a five-point run, pounding another offering from Royer and blocking in the middle, while Powers added an ace. The Eagles surged to 20-10 as McAndrews spiked and aced and Winter demolished a quick set. Junior opposite Zack Champa eventually scored the game winner with an empty net spike on the right, while Elder’s blockers chased McAndrews in the middle.
Elder came out firing in game two, however, taking a 3-0 lead on a slam by junior middle Andrew Barnette, and a double block from Moehring and 6’8” First Team All-State senior middle Matt Harpenau.
Winter got St. Edward going with a shot from back court, and he pounded three more from the front. Harpenau and 6’7” outside C.J. Zureick kept partial pace for the Panthers until the Eagles finally knotted it at eight on two straight kills by junior opposite Zack Champa.
Moehring, however, started a four point Elder spurt, slamming a point down the left and blocking McAndrews in the middle. Harpenau ended a long, intense volley prolonged by St. Edward digs from libero Ben Durst, Royer and Winter, and Elder block rejections by Harpenau, Moehring and 6’7” Honorable Mention All-State John Lucas Elder. After a double block kill by Lucas and Harpenau, the Panthers were up 12-8.
McAndrews ended that and St. Edward closed to 15-13, helped by Elder mistakes. Moehring and senior opposite Tyler Hoffman kept the Panthers in charge, however, with three kills. After Elder won the next intense volley, despite nice defensive effort from Royer, the Eagles closed to 16-15 on blasts from Winter and Powers.
But a net serve and an infraction kept Elder above water. After an exchange of points, McAndrews terminated a hard fought volley and the Eagles were again within a point at 19-18. With both teams playing as if their lives depended on the outcome, Moehring blocked McAndrews for the next point, and Powers and Harpenau exchanged bombs leaving Elder atop 21-19.
Then St. Edward made a move. Winter answered with a termination and backhanded a desperation dig by Powers over the net, and when Elder’s next hit was long, the score was tied. Zureick responded with a blast down the left that was blocked across court but out. That could have started something because St. Edward’s next hit was out - but Elder was, alas, in the net.
But when St. Edward’s ensuing serve slammed into the net, a run to the finish by Elder did materialize, as Panther setter Steven Kent won huge on a duel at the net, and an Eagle hit got snared in the net.
McAndrews opened game three with a quick set blast, and the lead went back and forth to 3-2 as the teams traded two errors apiece. Kills by Winter, who also teamed with McAndrews on a block, sparked the Eagles to a 7-3 lead.
But Moehring started another rally, interrupted only by two serving errors, with a knock down kill by, and Elder moved atop 10-9. Harpenau contributed a block, Zureick a kill and a block.
St. Edward moved back in front 12-11 helped by two kills from Powers and a booming block from McAndrews. Moehring intervened again, and Elder ran off four points, helped by digs from libero Ryan Welch and a kill by Harpenau.
McAndrews hammered a Chris Royer short set, and the Eagles crept within one at 15-14. But Moehring terminated the next volley and Harpenau spiked and blocked for four points, and after a tip by Zureick the Panthers were up 21-16, the Eagles lone two points coming courtesy of hitting errors.
It did not help that during this juncture McAndrews suffered a sprain, was temporarily removed from the lineup. “It was huge for them”, said Elder Coach Tierney. “But we were leading at the time”.
After two more Eagle points, junior middle Andrew Barnette smoked a short set from Kent and Elder advanced to 23-18. Zureick out battled Powers at the net to make it 24-19 and a long hit ended the game.
Game four saw a brief back-and-forth as Moehring led off with a kill, Winter and Moehring exchanged terminations, and Champa scored on a cross-court shot. But after Harpenau answered back, the Eagles obliged with three errors - one was abetted by a line serve from Moehring - and St. Edward never escaped the hole. The Eagles did close to 7-5, after which Panther senior opposite Tyler Hoffman smoked a cross-court shot to start a long point trading session that advanced the score to 13-11.
Elder setter Chad Thornton broke the quid pro quo with an ace, sparking a 4-1 spurt to 17-12. McAndrews spiked and aced three points as the Eagles stayed within five. With the score 20-15, McAndrews led St. Edward’s last attempts for redemption with another kill and an ace. When Powers blocked Harpenau in the middle to end a long volley, Elder's lead was down to 20-18. On the next play St. Edward libero Ben Durst and McAndrews ran down and returned a pass headed into oblivion, but Zureick averted further damage with another blast that could not be saved.
Royer and 6’4” junior middle blocker John Paterek kept the Eagles alive with a block, ending another intense volley, and when a spike by Zureick slammed just out, St. Ed was almost back.
But Barnette came up huge, and then huger. First, he hammered a keep-the-lead kill down the middle. And after Winter answered with an off-speed hit down the line, Barnette two-handed a way-too-close-to-the-net pass into a hole at the right front line – all the while contorting himself out of the net. Elder was two points away at 23-21.
A net serve gave St. Edward another reprieve, but Moehring would have none of it. His slam to right middle took the Panthers to match point. And after Lucas partially blocked McAndrews, Moehring sent Elder fans into celebration with a cross-court blast from the left.
History would have to wait until next year.
“We watched film and noticed tendencies of what we did right and wrong”, Elder Coach Sean Tierney said when asked how the Panthers prepared for their rematch, adding “In the first game we didn’t play to our abilities. We applied ourselves and settled in after that. St. Edward got tense after we blocked a few”.
Tierney concluded with “Big game experience playing in the GCL helps”.
Moeller continues title defense with win over St. Ignatius
Defending state champion Archbishop Moeller led all the way and defeated Cleveland St. Ignatius in the second semifinal match 25-18, 25-18, 25-15 of the day. While the teams had many similarities – not many seniors, a lack of height (each team with only one player over 6’2”) and a propensity for “scrappy play”, as Moeller Coach Greg Ulland put it – Moeller held the edge in firepower. The Crusaders also had First Team All-State and South Region Player of the Year setter/right side Landen Hunter, and Honorable Mention All-State junior outside Tucker Skove, a 5’10” junior starting tailback on the football team who can touch 10’7”.
Game one got off sloppy as Moeller jumped out 3-0 and 6-3, all nine points coming on errors. Crusader 6’4” middle Ben Vickers blasted a short set from Hunter for the game’s first kill to make it 7-3. He started a three-point spurt to 10-4 with another smash.
The Wildcats clawed back with two, on kills by senior setter Mike Messina and sophomore middle blocker Andrew Brzezinski. Moeller re-upped to 12-6, but St. Ignatius Honorable Mention All-State senior outside Tim Hark nailed a kill and Brzezinski served an ace, while Messina rejected Crusader spikes.
Moeller, however, added three more to 15-8, and expanded the margin to 18-10 and 22-11 as Hunter scored two kills and short set Vickers for a bomb.
Wildcat junior outside Tim Moran sparked a four point run with a kill and block, and St. Ignatius stayed alive on kills and a block from Hark and Brzezinski, before Crusader senior middle John Abeln put it away with a cross-court shot on the left.
The Crusaders jumped out again on three Wildcat errors in game two, and continued on to 6-0 when Abeln demolished two quick sets by Hunter and a Skove hammered from the outside.
Messina ended the run with a dump, and the Wildcats mounted their longest rally of the day, five, as Moran spiked a kill, Moeller lifted a great dig by Hart from back court that cleared the net, Hart aced and junior opposite Brooks Boron blocked on the right.
Skove averted a tie with a termination down the left and Moeller was up 9-5 after an ace down the left by Abeln.
Junior libero Jay Wolf got St. Ignatius back on track with a well placed hit from back court that was dug out, and Brzezinski added another kill and a block to narrow the gap to 10-8.
But the roof fell in when Skove powered another blast. A Wildcat block hit the pole, junior Kyle Neuville scored on a parry thru the block, Skove served an ace and after errors and more kills by Vickers and Neuville, the Crusaders were up 18-10. With the score 23-18, Skove demolished a quick set, and ended a long final volley with a slam from the left into back middle.
Moeller scored three again to start set three, as Hunter spiked down the right and Vickers demolished an overpass. The Wildcats stayed close at 5-3 with Hark contributing a kill and Messina winning a duel at the net.
But with the score 8-4, Abeln erupted for two kills and two blocks to fuel a five point run, and not long after he served an ace during a four-point spurt that put Moeller up 18-7. Junior outside Mike Zoller ended a four-point St. Ignatius rally with a cross-court kill, putting Moeller on a 24-15 verge.
Hunter ended the match with a block.
Darby avenges nail-biting loss to Lakota West with even tenser win
Hilliard Darby survived a line-up snafu and avenged an earlier loss by squeezing past Lakota West 25-23, 14-25, 23-25, 25-22, 17-15 in their quarterfinal match. The Firebirds had won a similarly pitched battle over Darby at the Pickerington North Tri-Match three weeks earlier 22-25, 26-24, 22-25, 25-22, 15-12.
The mix-up occurred in the tiebreaker and involved Darby senior outside hitter Daniel Huey, whom Coach Bryan Webb inadvertently listed as a libero on the lineup sheet he submitted before game five. “I put him down on the lineup sheet twice, as libero and outside”, said Webb. “You can’t change your libero”.
Huey performed superbly in his new position, and Webb said afterward “He’s one of our best players, he makes plays no matter where he’s at”. “But”, Webb added, “I wanted him to do some swinging too”.
Darby took advantage of 15 Firebird errors to win a tight first game and, as the match developed, avert a straight set loss. The Panthers gave up six points on miscues.
The match opened with two long serves and after four lead changes and eight ties the teams were deadlocked at eight! Firebird senior setter/opposite Dallas Kaiser tied things at 2-all with the match’s first kill. Junior outside Rio Onuki added three kills for West, while Brad Stimson and Daniel Huey kept Darby close at 8-7.
Darby moved ahead 10-8, and West went back in front on kills by Honorable Mention All-State 6’4” senior blocker Chris Stanislovaitis, who also got help from Kaiser on a block. The Panthers moved back in front 13-11, and the teams traded three point runs to 16-14. West tied for the 13th time on a termination by Stanislovaitis and a Panther double hit.
Following a service error, Darby surged ahead 20-16 as junior middle Mason Print found a hole, Huey block killed and defensive specialist Diego Alvarado served an ace.
West closed to 22-20 behind kills from 6’4” senior blocker Jay Fintel and a dump by Kaiser, but Panther senior middle Josh Phillips and Huey sandwiched kills around a point by Fintel take it to 24-21. West got a net serve reprieve, and Kaiser spiked one more kill, after saves by libero Adam Johnson and Onuki. But Stimson slammed the door shut with a game-ending spike.
Huey nailed a cross-court blast to start game two, but Firebird First Team All-State and West Region Player of the Year senior outside Dylan Kembre, who scored no kills in game one, spiked two as West took a 3-2 lead. After a service error, sophomore outside/setter Alex Vohland tipped a Panther overpass, created by a well-placed tip by Kembre, into a hole. Kembre’s ensuing serve was miss-handled, and West was never headed after a 6-1 run.
Darby closed to 9-7, and Kaiser and Huey exchanged kills. The Firebirds then put the game away with a 13-2 rally that included two five-point runs, the first led by Stanislovaitis, the second started by Kaiser and continued by kills from Kembre.
Lakota West led off the next set with three straight, including a double block from Kembre and Stanislovaitis. Darby scored the next four on kills from Phillips and Stimson and blocking by Honorable Mention All-State senior setter Colin Ingram and Print. The teams traded points from there with deadlocks at every point to eight. A heads-up score from backcourt by Kembre that tied it at eight sparked a three-point spurt as Stanislovaitis contributed a kill and block.
Phillips ended that with a kill and Darby went ahead 12-10 on an ace by Huey and Stimson’s block of a dump by Kaiser. The Panthers increased their edge to 17-13. But the Firebirds rebounded with a 4-1 spurt as errors came back to haunt Darby. Darby kept pace, temporarily, and still led 22-19 after Stimson drilled a kill down the left.
Stanislovaitis, however, blocked Stimson’s next attempt and after a hitting error by Darby, and a double block from Stanislovaitis and Kaiser, the score was knotted again.
A timeout went to no avail and West moved to game point on two more miscues, the second a bomb that exploded barely, but harmlessly, outside the line. Print kept things alive with a kill, but when Darby’s ensuing serve plowed into the net the game was over.
Kembre started things off in game four with a tip, to which Onuki added an ace, and the Firebirds moved ahead 5-2 on a kill and block by Stanislovaitis. But Stimson delivered a blast that was dug way out and Darby tied it on a smash from senior right side Brent Runyon. West moved back in front 7-5 as Kaiser split Darby’s seams with a cross-court shot and Kembre served an ace.
Darby then spurted to its first lead as Print crunched a quick set from Ingram, Alvarado served an ace and Runyon powered two more kills. The Panthers continued to 13-11, paced by Huey.
Kembre sparked a three-pointer with a hammer down the left and, after a Darby error Johnson that helped with two saves, a tip off the block. The teams traded leads with two-pointers.
Errors put Darby back on top 18-16, and the Panthers edged further out 20-17. After Kembre won a play at the net to narrow the margin to 22-21, Huey ended a long volley with a blast that was blocked over but out.
The next volley was long as well, and when a Panther hit sailed long West was again within one. But a slam by Stimson was blocked over and out, and a long Firebird hit ended it.
As the tiebreaker was about to start, concern written on the faces of Darby players and Coach Webb became obvious as the realization that Huey’s arm would be missed sank in.
And things did not look good when West drew first blood, and after a tying kill, surged ahead 6-2 on a dump by Kaiser, and kills from Stanislovaitis, Kembre and Fintel. Stimson then scored the first of two Darby points with a blast that three digs couldn’t handle, and the teams exchanged points to 11-9.
The trading ceased when Stimson spiked a kill after Phillips had dove into the right corner for a one-handed save. And when Ingram followed with a block on Kembre on the right, the match was even at eleven.
Darby’s next serve was long, but Ingram alertly averted a 13-11 hole when he converted a too-close-to-the-net serve receive into a perfectly placed dump. Stimson followed with a big block that landed in West’s back court and Runyon hammered a kill to bring Darby to a 14-12 verge.
The Firebirds were not through, however. Fintel scored with a hard to reach tip that was lifted, and Onuki ended an extremely hard fought volley with a tying blast that was blocked out, this after Huey had dove out of bounds to save an earlier errant block.
Print kept Darby in control with a block in the middle, but a well placed hit by Kembre got Darby out of system and into a hitting error. Alvarado answered with a kill from the left and when West’s next attempt was stopped by the net the match was over.
Webb said afterward that Darby was focused on making the Firebirds work. “We knew their center likes to be an off weapon, and Dylan Kembre – they like to get him the ball. So we wanted to serve their third guy”. That strategy may have been the catalyst that won game one. Webb added “They (West) play great defense, but we…just wanted to get the ball in play so we could run our offense”.
Darby’s experience at Worthington Kilbourne’s Wolf Invitational, where the Panthers agreed to split into two teams, and where their “B” squad won a game off St. Charles in pool play, also helped get them through game five.
Mt. Vernon tops Centerville for first state tournament win in school history
“It’s great. The kids worked hard, we had a great week of practice, the kids came in confident. It’s a tremendous win for our program.”
That was what Coach Alan Cassell had to say after his Mount Vernon Yellow Jackets garnered the first state tournament win in school history with a 25-18, 25-22, 21-25, 25-22 decision over Centerville in the last quarterfinal match of the evening.
It was their second win over Centerville this season. The Yellow Jackets topped the host Elks in a consolation match 21-25, 25-18, 25-18, 25-23 at the Elite, en route to their take down of Archbishop Moeller for fifth place.
The Yellow Jackets scored first as the teams traded errors to 2-2, after which senior libero Steve Splawinski gave the Elks their only lead with an ace. Mt. Vernon went back on top when 6’4” setter/opposite Carter Cassell, named Player of the Year in both Ohio and the East Region, terminated a long volley, and led 5-3 after a block by senior outside Ben Miglin.
Centerville senior middle Kevin Timperman demolished a David Riggsby set and terminated an overpass of Paul Cougar Clark’s serve to retie at six. But Mt. Vernon junior Chris Omahan answered with a termination down the left. That sparked a four-point to which senior middle Andre Nixon contributed an ace, Cassell blasted a cross-court from the right off a block tip and Omahan scored from the left.
Mt. Vernon was ahead to stay, as it turned out, but the Elks kept things interesting, closing within 12-10 on kills by 6’4” junior opposite Johnny Glover and Clark, and again at 16-14 after two more points from Timperman.
Then Honorable Mention All-State senior middle Ben Bennett contributed a block to a three-point run that gave Mt. Vernon 21-16 breathing room, and the Yellow Jackets pulled away to the end on a termination by senior setter Chris Ingersol, an ace from Bennett and a kill by Miglin.
A long hit and a double block by 6’5” Michael Van Winkle and Glover gave Centerville a 2-0 game two lead, and the Elks expanded that to 5-1 on a block from Clark, and another double by Van Winkle and Glover.
But Mt. Vernon scored four to tie on two errors, a dump from senior setter Chris Ingersol and an ace by Bennett. Glover terminated that run and the Elks added two more as Timperman demolished a Riggsby short set. The Yellow Jackets closed from 9-6 to 10-9, and after Timperman smashed another short set, they knotted the score again on two miscues by the Elks.
Mt. Vernon gave one of those back, then took the lead as Bennett cremated a back set from Cassell and Miglin scored a two-hander through the block. On the next volley, Miglin back peddled for a great dig and Ingersol hammered a cross-court that was blocked out. After point trading to 17-15, Mt. Vernon added three more, one on a fall-down dig by Miglin that went over the net and led to a Centerville hitting error.
The Elks crept within 22-20 on Yellow Jacket miscues but Bennett hammered a quickset, and point trading preceded a game ending termination by Ingersol, who hammered on the right while Nixon faked in the middle.
The Elks came out fighting in game three, which saw ten ties and five lead changes to 15-15. Timperman kept the Elks in it early, breaking a three-point Mt. Vernon run with a short set blast that was dig into the stands, smashing another short set and double blocking with Second Team All-State senior outside Sam Sheers to force a tie at five.
Sheers blocked a Cassell tip on the next play, giving Centerville its second lead at 6-5, but Cassell promptly retied it. The lead went back and forth - a block by Bennett put Mt. Vernon back atop 8-7, and the Elks overtook to 10-8 on two mistakes and a kill from Clark. Elks errors along with kills by Bennett and Miglin propelled a 5-1 Mt. Vernon spurt to 13-11, and kills by Timperman and Sheers retied at 14.
Following a serving error and another Mt. Vernon lead, Timperman ended a very intense volley with a smash in the middle, and Sheers teamed with Van Winkle on a block. And when an attempted overpass cremation by Mt. Vernon slammed into the net, the Elks were up 17-15.
Nixon ended the run with a block kill, but Sheers answered with a termination. A Yellow Jacket pole infraction made it 19-16. Omahan replied with a termination right at someone, an ace by Cassell cut the lead to 19-18, and point trading left the Elks clinging to a 22-21 lead.
Heads defense by Sheers and Clark kept the next volley alive for Timperman to terminate with another bomb in the middle. Clark followed with an ace, and when Mt. Vernon’s next attempt hit the net Centerville had its biggest lead along with the game.
Game four was another battle with six ties and two lead changes that left Centerville on top 16-14. Van Winkle started the scoring and Clark and Glover added knock downs for a 3-1 Elks lead. Mt. Vernon rallied ahead 6-4, and led 9-6 after two hammers from Bennett, one off a great backset by Cassell.
But the Elks re-knotted at 11, on a too-hot-to-handle shot by Sheers, a liner by Clark that was dug into the net and out of bounds, and an ace from Sheers. Ingersol kept Mt. Vernon in control with a point and Omahan added a kill from back court, this on the heels of a great dig by Bennett.
But two Yellow Jacket errors, and a blast by Glover that answered another back court kill by Omahan resulted in a tie at 14. Clark terminated down the left and the Elks went up 16-14 on an ace from Nick Vallo.
Mt. Vernon called timeout, and did this one ever work wonders. A service error ensued, and the Elks dug Miglin’s first serve into the net. Cassell demolished a backset from Ingersol, and after three more Elks miscues possibly helped by a slippery floor, Mt. Vernon was up 20-16.
Clark ended the run with a kill, but nifty defense by Cassell and Nixon kept the next volley alive for another Yellow Jacket point. Two pointers by both teams moved Mt. Vernon closer at 23-19. Sheers intervened with a hammer past a double block, but Bennett demolished a Cassell short set to take it to match point. Sheers prolonged things with another kill and Van Winkle kept the Elks alive with a block in the middle.
On the next volley Ingersol pounded a cross-court shot, and when the Elks’ block sailed out Mt. Vernon had their first win at state.
"We practiced defending against big strong hitters”, Coach Cassell said afterward. “They are a big, strong team, they hit the ball hard, and we did some special things in practice for that. We used a different rotation, to have our better blockers match up with their better hitters”.
Besides that, Cassell said “Our kids just played hard”.