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Central Swept By Shadyside

Photo by Seth Staskey Wheeling Central’s Delaney O’Connell works around an attempted block by Shadyside’s Gentry Brown during Tuesday’s OVAC Class 2A semifinal match at Shadyside.

SHADYSIDE — Just last Thursday, Shadyside swept Wheeling Central in relatively easy fashion en route to locking up the top seed in the OVAC Class 2A tournament.

Ironically, the Tigers and Maroon Knights met in the first round of that event Tuesday evening back inside the Tiger Den.

Wheeling Central wasted no time in showing that it had come to Belmont County with an upset in mind. The Maroon Knights found themselves with a pair of set points in the first game.

However, the Tigers showed the resolve of a team that’s looking to defending their OVAC championship. They rallied to win the first set, 27-25 and then went on to finish the sweep by scores of 25-15 and 25-16.

“When you’ve beaten someone already twice during the season, it’s easy to think that it’s just going to happen again,” Shadyside head coach Eric Mercer said. “I told the girls in pre-game that you can’t take anything for granted. You have to come to play and you have to play to win and during that first set, (Wheeling Central) played to win.

“Luckily, we were able to make the plays we needed to to get that set headed in our direction and get the momentum on our side.”

Getting to the finish line in sets has been an issue all season for the Knights, according to head coach Delaney Denniston, who watched her squad drop to 15-6.

“That first set was huge, but not being able to finish has kind of been our theme this year,” Denniston said. “That carried on to the second and third sets, which was huge. They took our mistakes and capitalized on them.”

That momentum that Mercer referenced never went back to the Maroon Knights.

And a big reason for that was the hitting of Gentry Brown and senior Paige Gorby, who delivered big swing after big swing. Most of which ended up on the floor for a kill.

The Tigers dynamic net duo combined for 22 kills with Brown pounding 14 of those to the floor.

Shadyside’s hitters were the beneficiaries of some solid passing, much of which came from senior Caroline Mercer, who posted 26 assists. She also had four digs.

Brown’s entire stat line included eight digs and three aces. Gorby added five digs.

All told, Shadyside had 16 aces in the match with Bayleigh Harman, Janelle Greenwood and Macy Hendershot all producing four.

“We cleaned some things up after the first set and played well in the second two sets,” Mercer said.

Wheeling Central was led on the stat sheet by Nicole Reasbeck, who had nine kills, three blocks and two aces. Ashlyn Knight had four kills and three blocks. Sydney Doyle had four blocks. Alexis Hood handed out 16 assists and posted six aces. Gabby Leadbitter had four digs.

“We have a talented group of girls and we just need to put it all together,” Denniston said. “I’m happy with how the season has gone, but there are still things we can continue to improve on.”

The victory sends Shadyside to Saturday’s championship match, which is scheduled for 11:15 a.m. at Union Local High School against Caldwell, which rallied from two sets down to stun Monroe Central in the other 2A semifinal.

“A couple of weeks ago, we weren’t playing real well and were sitting in the third spot (in the OVAC standings), but we finished with six straight wins and have been playing much, much better,” Shadyside head coach Eric Mercer said. “This wasn’t our best effort, but it was good enough and we’re back in the championship, which is what we wanted.”

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