TROY — Russia volleyball coach Aaron Watkins runs Facebook and Twitter accounts for the program and commonly ends posts with “#StartATradition.” Though when it comes to winning sectional titles, Russia could now change the hashtag to “ContinueATradition.”
Russia claimed its third consecutive Division IV sectional title and earned a spot in a district title match with a 25-18, 25-15, 25-15 win over Mechanicsburg on Wednesday at Troy’s Trojan Activities Center.
The Raiders (19-6) will face Southeastern in a district final on Saturday in Troy. Southeastern beat Riverside 3-1 in a sectional final on Wednesday in Covington.
Russia won its first district title in 14 years last year. Watkins said repeating on Saturday and winning matches at the regional level is the new expectation.
“Last year, the tradition we wanted to start was winning at district finals and getting to regionals,” Watkins said. “The standard we want to set now is winning at regionals. We’re going to get to regionals, now we’ve got to start winning at regionals.”
The Raiders looked ready for the regional stage on Wednesday.
Russia scored the first three points of the first game but Mechanicsburg came back and took a 6-4 lead on an ace from Emma Dunham. The Raiders then scored the next nine points (with the help of several Mechanicsburg defensive miscues) to take a 13-6 lead.
The Indians came within 20-16 late, but a block by senior middle hitter Laurissa Poling and a kill by senior outside hitter Morgan Wenrick extended the lead to six points and gave Russia momentum to close it out.
“We had some early jitters,” Watkins said. “Kudos to Dunham. She did a good job on Laurissa. They had a pretty good scouting report on us for the first part of it. We settled in and did what we needed to do.”
The Raiders took an early 10-4 lead in the second game and cruised to a big win. They built a 12-3 lead in the third game, which caused Mechanicsburg to burn both timeouts. The Indians did little more than trade points the rest of the way as Russia closed out a big win to claim the match.
Poling and sophomore outside hitter Ashley Scott each had 12 kills while Wenrick had six. Jenna Cordonnier had seven aces, 25 assists and nine digs while Kendall Monnin had 10 digs.
Russia, which was the sectional’s No. 2 seed, won all three sectional matches by 3-0 scores.
“It was a good thing that we almost knew going in that we would get to districts,” Watkins said. “But there’s a downside not playing the competition we’re used to.”
No. 9 Mechanicsburg finishes 12-10 overall.
Jackson Center 3, Troy Christian 0
When it comes to a tradition of district final appearances, few teams in Ohio can match Jackson Center. The Tigers have won 11 consecutive D-IV district championships and will look for a 12th on Saturday.
Jackson Center beat Troy Christian 25-14, 25-10, 25-8 in Wednesday’s second sectional final in Troy. The Tigers (22-3) will face Miami Valley Christian Academy in a district final on Saturday in Troy.
“I fully believe it’s a culture,” Jackson Center coach Kim Metz said. “…The word ‘culture’ is one that comes to mind many times when I prepare for each season and each tournament. These girls know our expectations. We’ve got to be disciplined. I wish we were a little more disciplined out on the court; that’s something we have discussions about all the time.”
MVCA (13-10) advanced to districts with a 3-0 win over Fayetteville Perry on Tuesday.
“They’re a scrappy team that has a couple of go-to players that we’ll have to key on,” Metz said. “… Volleyball’s much different than several sports. You basically have to take care of your 900 square feet. If you take care of your 900 square feet, you’re going to be able to take care of and combat and focus in on what they’re doing on their side.”
The Tigers got out to an 8-3 lead in the first game and cruised to a big win.
Troy Christian fought with Jackson Center early in the second. After an early 3-3 tie, the Tigers scored three straight points and later built a 15-8 advantage. They then scored nine consecutive points on their way to close out another big victory.
Jackson Center cruised to a 25-8 win in set three.
The Tigers, which were the sectional’s No. 1 seed, won all three sectional matches by 3-0 scores.
“You never what’s going to happen in each match; you just show up and make sure the kids are going,” Metz said. “You do things in practice to challenge them and make sure they’re going to perform. Try to keep a little bit of the butterflies and a little bit of the jitters because you still have that potential, if you’re a freshman or a senior, of wigging out and not being as focused as you need to be. We’ve been focused.”
Senior outside hitter Raquel Kessler led Jackson Center with 18 kills while Sarah Clark had seven. Katie Sosby had 12 digs while Caroline Frieders had 18 assists and Ashley Mullenhour had 11 assists.
No. 12 Troy Christian finishes 14-10.
Reach Bryant Billing at 937-538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter and @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook.