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Elder returns to fourth straight state final with hard-fought decision over Hilliard Darby
July 23, 2010
By Jim Jicha
Having vanquished top ranked St. Edward in the quarterfinal, Elder ground out a tough 25-20, 20-25, 25-20, 25-17 decision over Hilliard Darby in the first semifinal played at Centerville High School on May 30.
The Panthers knew very little about Darby coming into the match. The teams hadn’t seen each other this year, and Darby had played most of their 18 matches in the Columbus vicinity. Darby was divided into two teams at the Wolf Invitational, their only major tourney appearance, making it difficult to accurately gauge their strength.
What Elder did know was that Darby, also nicknamed the Panthers, had beaten Mt. Vernon in the OCC Challenge, and had in their quarterfinal avenged a five-game loss to second ranked Lakota West.
“We didn’t play Darby, we didn’t see Darby, we were flying basically blind”, said Elder Coach Tierney said after the match. “All we found out was they played a 5-1 and had quality outsides. We prepared for St. Edward, which has good outsides, so we felt pretty confident about that. Their middles, especially Josh Phillips, were better than we expected. Phillips put up some good blocks and kills”.
Game one saw seven ties and two lead changes to 7-7, and although Elder went ahead for good and eventually took a 21-14 lead, the final outcome was in doubt to the end.
Elder learned about Josh Phillips quickly, when the senior middle smoked an overpass to open the scoring. Elder moved ahead 2-1 on a block by 6’7” Honorable Mention All-State senior opposite John Lucas and stayed a step in front on blasts from the left and right by 6’3” junior outside Matt Moehring.
But Darby retook the lead and held it to 7-6 after a kills by senior right side Brent Runyon and senior outside Daniel Huey.
Elder retied at seven on a double block by 6’3” middle hitter Andrew Barnette and Lucas, and went up by two on an ace from defensive specialist Nick Boeing and a termination from Moehring.
Huey ended the run, and an intense volley, with a kill off the block, and Darby matched Elder point for point to 13-12 as senior outside Brad Stimson smoked a cross-court shot, Honorable Mention All-State setter Colin Ingram dumped and junior middle Mason Print spiked two kills.
Elder broke the quid pro quo on two kills, by Barnette and 6’7” senior outside C.J. Zureick, and Darby closed back within a point at 15-14 on a kill by Huey and an ace from Runyon.
Then Elder seemingly broke it open with six straight, with Lucas and Moehring tipping for two, Boeing acing, Barnette blocking, and Darby obliging with two errors.
But Huey snapped the string with a kill to back middle and, following a service error, Stimson powered a kill a block kill and Phillips served up an ace. A long Elder brought Darby back within three at 22-19.
First Team All-State 6’8” senior middle Matt Harpenau, who had heretofore been silent, ended the rally with a smash in the middle. He then made a saving dig at the net and took it to game point with another kill. After one more point from Stimson, Moehring ended the game with a blast off the block.
Darby struck first again in game two and raced out to a 6-0 lead they never relinquished, as Huey dished up an ace and kept Elder out of system. The Panthers extended their edge to 9-1 and 11-2 on kills by Phillips, Stimson, Print and junior outside Kyle Kuebler.
Elder ran off four helped by two aces from Moehring, but Darby re-upped their margin to 15-7 on points from Runyon and Huey. After point trading, Elder ran off four more and eventually closed to 20-18.
Huey scored big with a spike that was blocked cross-court and out, and after a net serve, he pounded another slam that was also blocked out. Runyon followed with an ace, and Huey and Phillips teamed up on a block kill that offset a heads-up defensive play by Harpenau.
Darby was up 24-19 and one Elder point later, Ingram kept a too-close-to-the-net pass in play for Huey to slam for game-point.
Tierney said later that his team underestimated Huey. “At start of game two, Daniel Huey was serving. He had missed some serves in game one, but he was firing bullets. He was making very difficult serves. I called timeout and told them to get behind the ball and he ripped off a couple more. I called another timeout – it was 11-2 – and from there we just started building back”.
It was during game two that Elder “made some adjustments”, said Tierney. “We made good decisions on how to exploit them. We lost 25-20, but we were right there even though we spotted them nine points”.
Tierney continued “That’s what we talked about at the end of that game. Let’s not get down on ourselves, we haven’t lost anything. We said, ‘let’s just get on top early this third game’, and we were able to go point for point”.
Elder did not start off on top right away, but once they did, they stayed on top.
Phillips again started things off with a tip through the middle. Moehring answered with two blasts on the left, but Huey retied with a cross-court dig, Ingram won a play at the net and Print punched a short set into a hole for a 4-2 Darby lead.
Harpenau demonstrated his versatility with three points via different methods - a blast through the block, a block kill, and a tip over the block. This led to a six point rally as Moehring followed with a block and, after a Darby net infraction, made it 8-4 with a termination down the line. Elder crept further ahead 16-10 on 2-1 spurts.
Darby cut the margin to 18-15, with Huey contributing a block and a great dig, but spiking by Zureick and an ace from setter Chad Thornton took the score to 22-17.
With the lead at 23-19, Harpenau tipped into a hole in the middle, and one Darby point later, he slammed a game terminating blast to the left line.
Game four was a barn burner, the 25-17 score notwithstanding, with Darby very much in contention to 18-16.
Stimson kicked off the scoring, Harpenau blocked Stimson to put Elder atop 2-1, Phillips landed a well-placed hit and served an ace, and the teams fought through ten ties and five lead changes to 11-11.
Elder pulled away from there, slowly, helped by solid passing from junior libero Ryan Welch. Moehring came up with two huge blocks, and after a net serve, senior opposite Tyler Hoffman sandwiched two kills around a double block by Zureick and Harpenau. That made it 16-12.
Darby, however, battled back, and after three kills by Runyon was within two again 18-16, before Elder put the match away with a blocking clinic.
Barnette teamed up on the first two blocks, one on the right with Lucas, the second with Moehring in the middle. Following a Darby timeout, Moehring blasted a spike down the left that sliced off a dig.
Huey snapped the run with a kill, but after a service error, Lucas and Harpenau teamed up on a block, and Harpenau solo blocked Elder to match point.
Moehring ended it with a spike that was blocked over, but out.
1) Elder Coach Sean Tierney praised his team’s defense after the win, starting with libero Ryan Welch. “He’s definitely progressed this year. He’s a speedy guy. Sometimes he gets so speedy he throws his body at the ball. He has a nice touch and we’ve been lucky to see him progress especially in serve receive passing.
All of our defenders are playing exceptionally well. Nick Boeing, backcourt sub for C.J. Zureick, picked up every setter dump, which is huge. Matt Moehring is playing up the line and getting that hard cross shot. He jumps very well”.
2) “It doesn’t matter who wins (Moeller or Mt. Vernon)”, Tierney responded when asked who he’d rather play in the final. “Let’s focus on what’s working for us, and playing good solid defense. Then it doesn’t matter what jersey is swinging at us, we’re going to put ourselves in a position to win”.
Tierney smiled and concluded “It’s gonna be a doozy”.
3) Elder Stats: Harpenau - 14 kills, 9 blocks, 5 digs; Moehring - 13 kills, 4 blocks, 15 digs; Zureick - 11 kills, 3 blocks, 1 dig; Lucas - 5 kills, 9 blocks; Welch - 1 ace, 24 digs