The Olentangy Orange girls volleyball team continues to break new ground this season, and now it can check beating defending OCC-Capital Division champion Big Walnut off the list.
The Pioneers (11-1, 5-1 OCC) won in four sets, 25-21, 25-20, 23-25 and 25-16, to pick up their seventh straight victory of the season and first over the Golden Eagles in four years.
“The program has been a mediocre (one) … and I think the seniors are starting to buy in,” first-year Pioneer coach Katie Duy said. “I’m happy, especially after losing that third set, that they were able to bounce back and show maturity.”
“We haven’t beaten Big Walnut in the last four years, so that’s huge for us,” junior Samantha Rubel said. “We’ve got to keep playing hard, practice hard and not take this one for granted.”
Big Walnut (5-4, 4-2 OCC) rallied late in the first set to close a 22-17 deficit to 23-21, but Rubel ended the set on consecutive points, the first on a kill and the winner on a block.
The Pioneers opened a big 14-5 lead in the second set, capped by back-to-back points scored by freshman Carrigan O’Reilly with a kill and a block.
The Eagles stormed back and cut the deficit to 23-20, thanks in part to an ace by junior Alexandria Brehm and a couple of kills by junior Olivia Wince, but Orange scored the final two of the set, which was capped by senior Jordan Gels’ kill.
“I saw them running really, really fast, and we weren’t keeping up with it,” Eagles coach Ron Lehman said. “Their middle hitters really did a great job.”
The two teams were neck and neck in the third set, though the Eagles controlled the lead most of the way, building as much as a five-point cushion at 17-12 on an Abigail Kitchen kill.
The Pioneers cut it to one on a couple of occasions, the latest of which was on a kill by Rubal, but Kitchen closed the set with a kill of her own for the Eagles.
Big Walnut freshman Machaela Podraza served up an ace to cut a close fourth set deficit to 16-15, but Orange was too much in the end. The Pioneers scored nine of the final 10 points, four by Rubal, to secure a 25-16 win and the match.
“I’m just trying to work hard for my team and make sure I put the ball down when I’m there,” Rubal said.
It was the second straight loss for Big Walnut after winning four straight coming into the week.
“I thought my kids played hard,” Lehman said. “I was really happy with the effort they gave. Orange is a night and day difference from what they’ve been in the past. They were very, very good.”
The Eagles host Hilliard Davidson on Saturday morning at 11:30 a.m. and the Pioneers are back at it on Monday at 7 p.m. at Worthington Kilbourne.
Big Walnut was in action at Saturday’s Otterbein Invitational. The girls finished third and the boys closed fifth.
Lexi Murnieks paced the BW girls with a sixth-place performance (21:02.9) while Matt Halbakken led the Golden Eagle boys, finishing seventh overall (17:08.8).
Granville 3, Big Walnut 0
Macie Kercsmar won at first singles (6-7, 7-6, 1-0) and Lindsey Hill handled business at third singles (6-1, 6-3), but it wasn’t enough as Granville edged host Big Walnut 3-2 Thursday in Sunbury.
Big Walnut 5, Franklin Heights 0
Big Walnut was sharp Wednesday in Sunbury, sweeping away visiting Franklin Heights 5-0.
BW winners included Kercsmar at first singles (6-0, 6-0), Abby Friend at second singles (6-4, 2-6, 1-0), Sara Althauser at third singles (6-0, 6-0) and the duo of Brittany Mills and Anna Faust at first doubles (6-2, 6-1).
The Golden Eagles won at second doubles by default.
Watkins Memorial 3, Big Walnut 2
Kercsmar nabbed a 6-0, 6-1 win at first singles and Lexie Kirkpatrick and Friend teamed up for a 6-1, 6-2 win at second doubles, but it wasn’t enough as the visiting Golden Eagles fell to the Warriors in non-league action Tuesday afternoon.
Big Walnut 2, Worthington Kilbourne 1
Tim Rumas and Sam Mason scored as Big Walnut rallied past visiting Worthington Kilbourne Thursday in Sunbury.
Ben Stroup and Michael Rich contributed to this report.