PETTISVILLE – On Saturday morning at Pettisville High School, the volleyball regular season came to an end for both Pettisville and Swanton as the Blackbirds swept the visiting Bulldogs in straight sets 25-20, 25-17 and 25-16 in non-league action. The match-up pitted two programs having very successful years and served to get the teams ready for state tournament action which begins this week.
“I thought we played solid,” said Pettisville coach John Horning. “I thought we did really well at the net as far as blocking. I thought our setters did a good job of moving the ball around and I thought defensively we kept ourselves in a lot of plays and a lot of hustle plays.”
The first set saw the Bulldogs overcome an early 7-5 disadvantage by scoring five straight points to go up 10-7 with Sidney Taylor serving four of those. Once the Blackbirds regained the serve, however, they responded with a devastating run of 14 points on the strength of the line drive serving style of their libero Stephanie Hubby and took a 21-10 lead.
Swanton rallied by putting up the next six points to pull within five, 21-16, but Pettisville managed to hold off the charging Bulldogs to finish with the 25-20 game one win.
Set number two was a back-and-forth affair in the early going as the teams traded leads several times in battling to a 7-7 tie. The Birds then ran off four consecutive points to build a small cushion they maintained until the score reached 19-15. From that point they slowly pulled away, winning 25-17 to take a two sets to none lead in the match.
Down 2-0, it was clearly evident Swanton was missing one of its best players in senior Kyleigh Ramlow who suffered a season-ending injury about two weeks ago. Filling her place and skills at the libero position, generally regarded as the most important spot in a volleyball lineup, has created a difficult situation for Bulldog coach Kyle Borer.
“Try and get the other ones better. That’s all I can do,” said Borer, commenting how he plans to adjust to the void. “We just have to get the ones she was playing with to be more consistent.”
Swanton continued to play hard into the third set, matching Pettisville point for point until, tied at eight apiece, the Birds put six straight on the board and took control of the game. The margin remained around the six point mark until late in the contest when Pettisville tacked on a few more for a 25-16 victory.
Prior to Saturday’s victory, the Blackbirds defeated Hilltop on the road in three sets on Thursday, 25-12, 30-28 and 25-18. In the process, the Blackbirds clinched the Buckeye Border Conference title outright after finishing a perfect 10-0 in conference.
Jess Youse paced Pettisville as she was 9 for 10 hitting with 10 kills. Amber Klopfenstein added eight kills, while Teagan Kauffman finished with seven kills and 14 digs.
“The whole goal of the year was to peak at the end of our season and I think we’re doing that,” said coach Horning following his team’s fifth consecutive victory heading into the playoffs. “We can go as far as we want to if we keep our fundamentals strong and our heads together. I think we’re at where we want to be.”
After drawing a first round bye, Pettisville will host the winner of Edon and Montpelier on Thursday at 6:30 p.m. for the OHSAA Division IV sectional championship.
Swanton begins Division III sectional play at home on Wednesday against Liberty Center starting at 6:30 p.m.
Bill O’Connell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org