Freshmen carried Big Walnut in the middle sets, but seniors carried it through to a 3-1 victory over visiting Olentangy in OCC-Capital Division girls volleyball action on Thursday night in Sunbury.
“It was a big win tonight, the kids played super,” Big Walnut coach Ron Lehman said. “I was really proud of the effort. I felt like that was the best we’ve played and we’re starting to put it together.”
After a night of comebacks by both teams, neither could gain a big advantage in the fourth set. Zoe Miller’s ace tied the score at 17 and neither team led by more than a point until Jessica Ruffing’s kill sealed a 25-23 victory for Big Walnut.
“Jess had a rough start and she finally got going,” Lehman said. “She really stepped up.”
Ruffing, a senior, led with 14 kills and fellow senior Tiffany Soisson added 13 to help the Eagles to a 27-25, 25-20, 23-25, 25-23 win.
Big Walnut (7-5, 6-2) trailed 14-7 early in the first set before scoring nine of the next 10 points to tie it at 16. Led by a pair of kills by Soisson, the Eagles eventually won the set 27-25.
“We just switched (Soisson’s) position,” Lehman said. “She was playing outside — we moved her back to the middle and she’s played that in the past. It made a big difference. We were kind of struggling in the middle and she gave us some big hits.”
Freshman Machaela Podraza scored four points, three by kills and another with an ace, during a 9-0 run in the second set that carried the Eagles to a 25-20 win.
“She’s really talented,” Lehman said. “She’s actually a setter, but since we have a senior setter, we’re having her play the opposite and she’s doing a really good job … really picking up (the new position). Plus, she puts a tremendous block and her serve is tough. She’s really coming along and really helping us out.”
Olentangy (8-4, 6-2) came back in the third set, trailing by a 14-7 margin before winning 25-23 to avoid a straight-set loss. Olivia Margolies and senior Sarah Hansel started the rally with back-to-back kills.
Hansel and junior Megan Cochran combined for a block to give Olentangy a lead before Margolies blocked one of her own to finish the set. Cochran led Olentangy with six blocks.
“(Cochran’s) actually hurt,” Olentangy coach Michelle Mimna said. “Her shoulder’s hurt, so she’s not swinging, she’s tipping. She knows that the contribution that she can make right now is on the blocking end. She jumps really well because she’s undersized.”
Margolies led Olentangy with 12 kills and Hansel added 10 kills and four blocks. Senior Sophie Fritz set a career high with 36 assists while Miller had 21 digs.
The win allowed Big Walnut to stay in the hunt for the OCC-Capital title and the loss put Olentangy in a second-place tie with the Eagles.
“We knew we had to win tonight to stay in it,” Lehman said. “If we win out, we’re great … if we don’t, we’re in trouble.”
“For the last four years, we’ve been in position to win the league and we’ve won it once,” Mimna said. “We’ve finished second three other times.”
The Golden Eagles swept away the host Warriors Thursday, winning with relative ease on all five courts.
Macie Kercsmar and Lindsey Hill won 6-0, 6-2 at first and second singles, respectively, while Sara Althauser nabbed a 6-0, 6-2 win at third singles.
In doubles action, Anna Faust and Hannah Moroz teamed up to win 6-0, 6-2 at first doubles while Lexie Kirkpatrick and Abby Friend won the most competitive match of the night, 6-2, 7-6 at second doubles.
The Big Walnut boys soccer team parlayed a pair of first-half goals into a solid 2-0 non-league win over visiting Hilliard Darby Saturday in Sunbury.
Tim Rumas broke the scoring seal, collecting a feed from Michael Kline inside the box before firing a shot past Darby keeper Matt Johnson.
The Golden Eagles (5-4-1) doubled their edge later in the half, scoring on a counter attack. Chase Geddis started the push, firing a pass to an open Michael Reardon behind the Darby defense. Reardon did the rest, finding the back of the net to smooth out the scoring summary.
The defense, anchored by Caleb Gibson’s eight saves, took care of the rest.
Emily Neff scored and BW goalies Colleen White and Jordan Foxworthy combined to stop seven shots as the Golden Eagles tied the host Panthers 1-1 Saturday in Hilliard.
Follow Michael Rich on Twitter @mrichdelgazette. Gazette sports editor Ben Stroup contributed to this report.