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Mineral Ridge staves off Tigers

COLUMBIANA — In the night cap of a double header at Columbiana High School on Wednesday, the Mineral Ridge Rams moved onto the Division IV district final with a 5-set victory over Newton Falls 27-25, 22-25, 25-20, 17-25, 15-12.

“I’m proud of our kids,” Mineral Ridge coach Ron Lesko said. “They continued to push through. They gave their best effort and fortunately we came out on top.”

The Rams won the first set even though Newton Falls senior Alexandria Drake made it difficult with a kill and an ace while serving.

Senior Olivia Valot is the perfect setter for the Tigers. Fellow senior Cadence Stewart served Newton Falls a victory in the second.

Aliyah Whittaker smashed a spike and served an as ace as the Rams gained the upper hand in the third.

“When we were down, we still came together and played as a team,” Whittaker said. “I kept reminding my teammates to stay positive. It ended up working out. Olivia Booth came in and really got us back in the game. We always have to keep that positive mindset. We can’t give up.”

Neither team did. Hannah Loeb had a block and a kill to close out the third for Ridge.

Freshman Lilly Sait blocked one for the Tigers and Stewart’s one-hand punch shot helped Newton Falls force a fifth and decisive set.

Natalee Albert dove to the floor to dig it out as Newton Falls built a 5-1 advantage in the final frame. Then, Booth took over from behind the line. Her three aces, including one that tipped over the top of the net, helped the Rams build a 12-5 lead.

The Tigers came back and got within 1 point at 13-12. However a big kill from Ava Hulett and the service points of Lilly Merolillo closed it out for Mineral Ridge.

“Our girls did so well,” Merolillo said. ” We played our hearts out. Everything worked out. It was just so amazing.”

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