LISBON - Having fought back from two sets down in the district semifinal two days before, Wellsville was in a familiar position after against Jackson-Milton in the Division IV district final on Thursday at Lisbon High School.
This time, though, there was no thrilling comeback as the ITCL Upper Tier champion and the defending district champion Blue Jays slammed the door in a dominant fourth game to take the match 25-12, 25-16, 19-25, 25-9.
"The first two games were a replica of the first two games on Tuesday," Wellsville coach Dan McKinstry said. "We couldn't pass the ball well enough to get swings. In the third game, we did, but at the end of the game we started drifting back. They came out in the fourth game and jumped all over us."
Junior Erica Hughes played perhaps the biggest role for the Blue Jays (22-3) as her consistent sharp attacks produced 26 kills.
"This was one of our main goals this year," Hughes said. "To get back is awesome. I think it's going to give us a lot of motivation to go even further this year."
Last year, the Blue Jays were quickly eliminated in the Solon regional with a straight set loss to Mineral Ridge. This time, they hope that experience is enough to produce a better result.
It likely won't be easy as the Blue Jays, ranked 18th in the Division IV coaches poll, will have to take on Saturday's Medina district winner between Cleveland Villa Angela-St. Joseph and Kidron Central Christian on Wednesday at Solon High School. St. Jospeh's is ranked 20th in the coaches poll.
"The nerves just kind of got the better of us last year," Blue Jays coach Sue Prozy said. "We were young, intimidated and scared."
Wellsville, the ITCL Lower Tier champion, rallied in the third set behind Shayna Hamilton's nine points serving to start the game.
"After I got all of those serves in, I thought we were going to be motivated to win the fourth and fifth games," Hamilton said.
The sophomore ended the night with 14 points, 29 assists and two aces.
"Our passing was the difference," Hamilton said. "It was not very accurate."
Paije Kiraly started off the fourth game with 10 straight service points for the Blue Jays. After that it was all academic.
"They're probably the most athletic team we have played," McKinstry said. "They cover and they have nice size."
McKinstry said he thought about mixing up the rotation to try to counter Hughes' leaping ability, but he decided against it because the Tigers had not done anything like that all season.
"She was jumping over top of our blockers," McKinstry said. "It wasn't going to matter what we did. She's very good and just a junior."
Hughes said she had fun going against Wellsville again since the two teams had developed quite the rivalry when they were in the ITCL Lower Tier together.
"It's always a fun match playing them," Hughes said. "It's always a good competition between us."
Also leading the Blue Jays were Kiraly with 30 assists and nine kills.
Maggie Oblinger added six blocks. Rachael Obradovich had 16 digs, 17 points and three aces.
For the Tigers, Maleya Fultz had 11 kills, McKenna Pierson seven kills, Sarah Skinner four kills and Jayla Martin four kills.
Burich writes for the Morning Journal in Lisbon