BARBERTON - South Range coach Rachell Storm-Baker took a young volleyball team farther than the Raiders ever have been, but in the end fell short at regionals.
A speedy, athletic Orrville team eliminated South Range, 25-17, 15-25, 25-16, 25-11, Thursday in a Division III regional semifinal at Barberton High School.
"We're definitely a young team, a talented team," Storm-Baker said. "We managed to play with a lot of heart to make it this far."
Orrville improves to 20-7, while South Range finishes with an 18-8 record.
"At this point, a win is awesome," Orrville coach Sarah Kutschinski said. "I'm exceptionally happy with the way we played defense. We played relentlessly and with a lot of effort."
The Raiders, for their part, kept things close throughout most of the night, including a dominating performance in the second game. But Orrville's quickness proved to be more than South Range could handle.
"We didn't play to our full potential overall," Storm-Baker said. "In the second game, and at times throughout the night we did, but definitely not overall."
The Raiders seemed to be on their heels against the hard-hitting Red Rider attack, led by senior Rylee Scott. That left South Range unusually susceptible to soft tips from the Orrville attackers, a problem that plagued the Raiders throughout the night.
"We definitely know how to pick those up, we should pick those up, but tonight we did not," Storm-Baker said.
In the first game, the teams battled back-and-forth early. But with Orrville up 15-14, the Red Riders went on a 7-0 run to make it 22-14. South Range got back on the board, but an ace by Scott earned the win at 25-17 and put the Red Riders up 1-0.
South Range bounced back strong in the second game, jumping out to a 8-2 lead that the Raiders expanded to 14-4 and 16-5 before Orrville scored four straight to get back in it. South Range didn't let up, though, and pushed its way to a 25-15 win.
"After the first game, I said to them they have to make a decision to fight for it or just to be here," Storm-Baker said. "Obviously they chose to fight at that moment."
The third game was more of the same, with the teams tied at 10 when Orrville went on a 5-0 run to take the lead. Things stayed even for a while after that, with South Range down 20-16 when the Red Riders went on another 5-0 run to close it out.
"In both the first and second sets we looked nervous," Kutschinski said. "But that's understandable - a lot of the girls haven't been this far before. Luckily, we got it out of our system. The kind of leaders we have - they stay calm and collected."
Storm-Baker knew her team let an opportunity slip in the crucial third game.
"We let them pull away when we were hanging with them,'she said. "They're a strong team, they took charge and we struggled to fight back."
Down 2-1 in the match, South Range started out sloppy in game four, with Orrville building an early lead the Raiders never were able to overcome. South Range fell behind 6-1 before fighting back to 7-4, but the Red Riders then scored six straight and stayed in control after that, taking a 25-11 win and a regional semifinal victory.
"I think the reality of it, that it could be the end of the season, hit them, and they worried about that too much," Storm-Baker said.
Sophomore libero Jordan Youngs led the Raiders with 12 points, three aces and 21 digs.
"My sophomore, Jordan Youngs, played phenomenal defense," Storm-Baker said. "She got a lot of (Orrville's hits) up."
Junior Ashley Shetter totaled 11 kills and four digs and freshman Lynnie Ritter collected four kills and four blocks.
With raised expectations after a successful season that saw the Raiders win their first district title with only two seniors (Caitlyn Adams and Brooke Ball), Storm-Baker thinks the team has nowhere to go but up.
"The reality of the possibility of South Range volleyball coming to regionals, now they have confidence, they believe it - it's not just me saying it," she said. "Now that we've set the bar and shown what we can do, we won't settle for anything less."
Orrville will face Cuyahoga Heights for the regional title at 2 p.m. Saturday.
The Red Riders are paced by senior settter Hannah Plybon, a University of Akron basketball recruit.
Cuyahoga Heights advanced by stunning defending state runner-up and eighth-ranked Gates Mills Gilmour Academy, 25-18, 24-26, 25-17, 25-22, in Thursday's nightcap.
"We're going to play to our strengths - athleticism, speed and our leadership," Kutschinski said.