LISBON - Inter-Tri County League lower tier champions Wellsville took about a game to get going in its Div. IV sectional final with Southern on Wednesday at Lisbon High School.
After that it was all downhill and on to the districts for the Tigers who downed the Indians 25-22, 25-12, 25-17.
"I don't mean any disrespect to the other teams we have played, but since we had played Heartland two weeks ago tonight, we had not had a match where we had to bear down on every point," Wellsville coach Dan McKinstry said. "In that first game, I thought Southern played really well. In fact, when I took the timeout late, I said they're actually outworking you. Finally in the second game, we settled down, passed the ball and hit the ball."
Wellsville's Jayla Martin hits the ball over to Southern's Natelie Utt. Also shown is Wellsville's Angelica Scarabino. (Photo by Patti Schaeffer)
With the win, the second-seeded Tigers (21-3) have swept the three-match season series from the Indians (10-11). Only the first meeting went longer than three games.
Wellsville will meet the No. 6 seed Crestview in the district semifinals at 6 p.m. on Tuesday. Crestview downed Heartland in five games in Tuesday's other sectional final.
The Tigers were aided heavily in the breakout second game by sophomore Jayla Martin who totaled 10 kills in the match. Martin leads the team in kills this season.
"She has really made a lot of progress," McKinstry said. "She played all the time last year, but she's improved. She's learned how to off-speed. She's learned how to hit different spots. She has gotten a lot better blocking. There's a maturity there and kids just believe when she hits the ball there's a good chance she'll get us a point."
Martin said she's taking a lot in from the seniors on the team - Maleya Fultz, Sarah Skinner and McKenna Pierson - and is ready for a solid tournament run.
"They're teaching me everything," Martin said. "Everything from how to hit my shots and how to understand the game better."
Martin describes her role on the team as "trying to keep everyone up" and it's easy to see why after the team came to life in the second game.
Fultz led the team in kills with 11, while Skinner had 10 kills and four blocks. Pierson had eight kills and three aces. Setter Shayna Hamilton had 16 points and four aces. Angelica Scarabino had 10 points.
For Southern, Emily Jenkins had 10 points, seven kills and three blocks. Hannah Brothers added 23 assists and seven digs. Natalie Utt produced 21 digs.
"We came out on fire, but let down a little bit," Southern coach Daisy Davidson said. "I'm happy though because we have a really young team."
Davidson is in her first season as Southern's varsity volleyball coach. She was the junior varsity coach last season and has additional experience coaching players in younger Junior Olympic programs.
"I love coaching here," Davidson said. "This is different though. I coach younger girls in J.O. These girls here bring a lot to the table."
As for Wellsville's matchup with Crestview, McKinstry said he's glad the Tigers have a few days to prepare because they don't have any recent track record of playing against the Rebels.
"We did scrimmage them, but since we have matches against Beaver Local, East Liverpool and Oak Glen locked in during the regular season it's hard to fit teams like Crestview in there since we're also committed to 12 league matches," McKinstry said. "I haven't thought much about Crestview, so it will be nice to have a few days to prepare for them. This will be the first time since the fourth week of the season where we had more than one day to prepare for a team."