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Crestview makes trip worth it against Bulldogs

ORWELL — The Crestview Rebels just keep plugging along.

Even when they have to drive an hour and 15 minutes to play a team that is essentially their neighbor who is just a 13-minute bus ride away.

The Rebels (25-0) came into this Division III district semifinal as the sixth-ranked team in the final Div. III Ohio High School Volleyball Coaches Association poll for good reasons.

They were undefeated and had only dropped three sets all year.

That played out the same Wednesday night as the top-seeded Rebels got past the 12th-seeded East Palestine Bulldogs in a three-set sweep, 25-10, 25-6, 25-12, at Grand Valley High School.

At least early on, the Rebels showed they are human with some early jitters and errors as they were locked in a back-and-forth first set holding a 14-10 advantage before Grace Auer came in to serve.

Her serves changed the night so to speak as she rolled off 11 straight points to give Crestview the first set.

“She served very well tonight,” Crestview coach Alisha Auer said. “We’ve never been here before. It’s a different venue for us so the nerves always play a part. It’s districts now so every game matters a lot. I think it took us a little while to feel comfortable and take charge. We started slow but finished out nicely.”

Auer led the Rebels with 19 points and 22 assists.

The Rebels are known for their front line which gives a lot of teams problems and just creates havoc.

For Crestview, Lucy Montgomery had 16 kils and seven assists. Abbey Emch had eight kills, a block, three aces and nine points. Shelby Rambo had five kills and two aces. Grace Auer had three kills, 22 assists, seven aces and 19 points. Emily Downey had seven digs.

After that uncharacteristic first set, the Rebels found their groove rolling out to a 10-2 advantage which forced East Palestine coach Jessica Franklin to call a timeout.

Things didn’t improve much for the Bulldogs.

“Our passing was a little off to start,” Auer said. “We were just a little out of sync. Our shoulders were up instead of down, passing the ball to the center so we could run the offense. We can make the first pass and set up anybody. We have so many offensive weapons. I think once we got the ball control down, we were much better.”

That they were as Mia Lee was East Palestine’s best offensive weapon with three points.

Elle Berger had five kills and 13 digs while Sophia Foster added 15 digs and four kills for the Bulldogs (14-8). Makenzie Parker had 10 assists and five digs. Ceci Foster had two points, five assists and six digs.

“We watched East Palestine last week so we knew that they had a couple of strong offensive weapons,” Auer said. “The plan was to keep them out of sync with tough serving. It worked.”

The Rebels will play the third-seeded Cardinal Huskies in the district final at 1 p.m. Saturday for a chance to return back to regionals.

“The girls started the season with a goal,” Auer said. “This is where they wanted to be. Being undefeated is just an added bonus. It just kind of happened. We wanted to get that chance to win district again. Every game can potentially be our last. That’s how we approach it. We just leave it on the court every time.”

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