By Greg Gulas
The Lisbon Blue Devils have not won a district volleyball championship since 1999.
After an inauspicious start to their season, not even first-year coach Cara Hardenbrook thought her team would be playing for the title.
Their three-game sweep of Tuesday of defending district champion Wellsville (20-5), however, puts the Blue Devils in that spot.
Lisbon (12-12), behind Sarah Boyd’s game-winning service ace, stunned the Tigers, 25-23, 25-17, 26-24 to advance to Thursday’s title match against Jackson-Milton (17-6).
The Bluejays earned their berth in the championship by stopping Columbiana, 12-25, 25-19, 25-19, 25-19.
“We’ve come a long, long way since the beginning of the season and that is because this group continually works hard and gives it their all in both practices and in games.
“At the beginning of the season,” said Hardenbrook. “I really didn’t think that we would be in this position, fighting for a district championship but I can also tell you that it doesn’t surprise me … after improving over the course of the season.”
As for Boyd, being nervous with the ball and the match on the line wasn’t an option.
“I knew that I just had to get the ball down and over the net,” she said. “I didn’t feel any added pressure but did say to myself not to rush anything; just take your time and don’t be nervous.”
Kenadee Pezzano’s five points highlighted Lisbon’s first two victories while Kayla Hiscox’s four service points in the final contest, along with the play of Boyd helped seal the sweep for the Blue Devils.
“They [Lisbon] were extremely aggressive, served well all night and deserved to win,” said East Palestine coach Dan McKinstry. “We weren’t clean or sharp and didn’t have the best attitude. “This wasn’t the same [Lisbon] team that we played in early September.”
Boyd had 11 digs and four aces while Kayla Hiscox had 10 digs, 15 kills and five blocked shots to pace the Blue Devils.
In the opening match, Jackson-Milton dropped the opening games then won three straight to advance.
Junior Zaina Sahli had 16 points and four aces, while Paije Kiraly added 16 points, 12 kills, 16 assists and three aces to pace the Lady Jays.
“We’re a very young team with just one senior and basically a fine group of underclassmen,” said Bluejays coach Sue Prozy. “We’re starting to jell at the right time.”
For the Clippers (15-8), Cassidy Stoddard had 12 points and 13 digs, while Tessa Lunger added 10 points, three aces and four blocks, and Meredith Tirpak notched 10 blocks and eight kills.