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Shadyside Advances To District Championship

SHADYSIDE — After capturing the first two games of Wednesday night’s Ohio Division IV, Eastern District volleyball match with visiting Strasburg, Shadyside watched the visiting Tigers make a run through the third game and midway through the fourth. However, Coach Eric Mercer’s crew were going to let nothing stand in their way of a repeat trip to the district championship contest.

Sophomore Gentry Brown dominated at the net with 18 kills, leading a parade of four Shadyside players with at least 10, while seniors Tory Hendershot and Kylie Jo Baker led the way late in the fourth game as the home-standing, and top-seeded, Tigers captured a four-set, 25-17, 25-14, 21-25, 25-17 victory over fourth-seeded Strasburg in the Tigers’ Den.

The victory moves Mercer and his 21-2 record squad into Saturday afternoon’s District championship game, back on the home court, against third-seeded Tusky Central Catholic, which defeated Shenandoah in five sets also Wednesday night. Shadyside fell to the Zeps in last year’s District title tilt.

“This is exactly as far as we got last year and we are looking forward to having another shot at the District championship,” a happy Mercer said.

The two teams battled early on in game one last night with Coach Kaylyn Archer’s 18-7 record squad getting an early lead before battling through eight ties and three lead changes before the hosts finally took control midway through. After sitting at 12-12 a Baker kill put Shadyside ahead for good and the Tigers were able to extend the lead to as many as eight on two occasions, including the final (25-17), which was finished off by a Baker tap for a 1-0 advantage.

Shadyside never trailed in game two, even though Strasburg managed to know the count twice early and was still within 16-13 on a Kylee Coles’ kill midway through.

But the hosts managed to score nine of the final 10 points to pull away with Brown leading the way with a block and three consecutive kills late. The 25-14 verdict put the hosts up 2-0 and on the apparent brink of a sweep.

But the visitors had other ideas as the squads battled through four ties. Strasburg never trailed after a Coles block made it 5-4 early on and led by as many as seven at 20-13 before four consecutive Shadyside points cut the deficit to three. The hosts managed to cut the margin to three point twice more before a Coles kill gave the Tuscarawas County Tigers a 25-21 win and cut the deficit to 2-1.

Leading 12-6 early on in game four, it looked like Strasburg might be on the verge of forcing a fifth and deciding game, but as quickly as Shadyside lost it mojo at the net in game three in returned midway through the fourth and the Tigers were roaring once again. Mercer’s squad chipped away, eventually cutting the margin to 17-14 before scoring the final 11 points of the night.

Baker had four kills down the stretch while Hendershot added three and Shadyside took advantage of four Strasburg miscues to finish off the match and start looking ahead to Saturday.

“I really don’t know what to say about losing the net in the third game,” Mercer commented. “But sometimes when you get up 2-0 that quick you tend to back off a little bit and that allowed them to get back into it. But we made a nice little comeback late in the third game and got it going late in the fourth after starting slow again.

“We took a time-out midway through the fourth game and I told the girls this is only going to be over when we decide it’s over and they came out and really took charge after that. We started taking great swings and dominating at the net again.

“Our front line played real well, and that includes everyone that was in the game and no matter who was up front at any given time. We made plays when we needed to. Getting that quick 2-0 lead and being in control also makes things a little easier.”

While Brown finished with a game-high 18 kills, Baker added 15 while Hendershot and junior Paige Gorby evenly divided 20. Junior Caroline Mercer once again did a fantastic job setting everyone up with 48 assists. Coles paced the visitors with 13 kills.

Archer was proud of how her team fought to comeback but was disappointed in falling behind.

“When we are up we are ready to go and usually come out and play hard right off the bat, but when we are down we sometimes struggle to get going and get back into things when we fall behind,” Archer said. “I felt like we fought hard early in game one and really came to life in the third.

“I have a girl in the middle that is one of my most experienced players and she does a great job getting to balls and blocking at the net, but when she comes out the other girls are sometimes a little unsure. My other middle girl has come a long since I started last year, but once in a while old habits come back and we don’t always overcome them and it hurts us in the end.”

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