LISBON - Sometimes, teams need to prove why they're billed as the top seed.
Consider Western Reserve proven.
The Blue Devils erupted for a big sweep of the fourth-seeded Columbiana Clippers, winning 25-14, 25-5, 25-7, in Tuesday's Division III district semifinal at Lisbon High School.
Western Reserve (22-2) only let Columbiana (14-11) hang around for half of the opening game before going on a nearly unstoppable run. The Blue Devils led 12-11 before taking 13 of 16 points to quickly jump ahead 1-0.
"During practice, we really worked on our passing," Western Reserve coach Jen Paris said. "We wanted to keep their defense off-balance so they couldn't set up their hitters. We got a lot of free balls, so that worked for us."
The Blue Devils weren't done there. Behind the serve of junior Rachel Maslach, Western Reserve scored 14 consecutive points in the second game, building an insurmountable 20-2 lead.
"We served really well today," Paris said. "Rachel's a very smart server. She likes to go to spots on the floor. We teach our girls to find the spots so they use some strategy. Rachel found some spots she liked."
"Coach always tells me to get my serve in," Maslach said. "Whenever I find a spot that they struggle with I just keep going there."
Maslach's run put the Blue Devils up two games and closed out any hope of a Columbiana comeback. The Clippers had gone from one point behind at the halfway point of the first game to finding themselves on the wrong side of a sweep.
So what happened to the Clippers that caused them to fall so far behind?
"That's a good question," Columbiana coach Linda Knox answered. "I was to the point where I didn't know what to say to them. You could just see it on their faces. They had a defeated look."
The Clippers struggled to make any progress against Western Reserve, falling behind to start both the second and third games. By the time Columbiana had found its footing, the only game left to be played was catch-up.
"You usually expect one player to be off on any given night," Knox said. "It was six tonight. When you have all of them off, it's difficult to recover."
It was a stark contrast to the Clippers' previous win over Heartland Christian, where Columbiana won an emotional five-gamer. The difference, according to Knox, was the Clippers' blocking.
"One of our biggest strengths became one of our biggest weaknesses," Knox said. "Against Heartland, that's what kept us in the game. Last time we played Western Reserve, we went four games, and our blocking was phenomenal that night. Tonight, we just struggled."
Columbiana was led by Carly Sawders, who had nine blocks. Hannah Hum had three points, while Shayla Ray added three kills.
It was an emotional loss for the Clippers, who end their season on the wrong side of a rout from a match where they were preparing for a possible upset.
"My girls had high expectations," Knox said. "They were in the right frame of mind when we showed up. Somewhere between the locker room and the court, it changed."
The Blue Devils were led by Maslach, who had 18 points, 18 assists, 40 sets and four aces. Aleah Hughes had 18 kills, while Kalina Wisniewski finished with 12 blocks.
With Reserve's first district title since 2008 a real possibility, Maslach doesn't expect her team to be letting up any time soon.
"We kept our chalk up," Maslach said of Tuesday's match. "We were ready to go today."
Western Reserve will face third-seeded Louisville St. Thomas Aquinas for the first time this season in the Lisbon district championship on Thursday at Lisbon High School.