Kayleigh Hall (7) of Jonathan Alder tips the ball over the net for a kill against Highland on Saturday. The Lady Pioneers, who won the Division II district championship match in four sets, will face Columbus Bishop Hartley on Thursday, 7:30 p.m., at Heath High School in the regional semifinals.
(Journal-Tribune photo by Sam Dillon)
The Jonathan Alder High School volleyball squad will have to be relentless and on full alert Thursday evening during the opening round of the Division II regional tournament.
“They are a fast-paced team and they never give up,” said JA head coach Kim Hayes.
She was referring to Columbus Bishop Hartley, which will be the Lady Pioneers’ opposition during the 7:30 p.m. match at Heath High School.
“They just don’t quit and that’s what makes them a dangerous team,” said Hayes.
The Lady Pioneers will take a 22-4 record into the contest, while the Hawks sport a 19-6 mark.
Both defeated higher-seeded teams in district title matches on Saturday.
Alder, the No. 3 seed, beat top-seeded Highland in four sets, while Hartley (No. 5) turned back No. 2 Big Walnut in five games.
The Lady Hawks have one player in their lineup of which JA must be especially aware. That’s 6-1 senior middle hitter Chiamaka Nwokolo.
“She lines up behind the setter to hit the ball,” said Hayes. “We’ve got to do our best to block her and keep the ball away from her when we hit.”
While Nwokolo, who has committed to continuing her career at the University of Pittsburgh, is impressive along the front line, JA can counter with a more balanced attack.
“People have been keying on Ava (6-0 sophomore Francis) for the past several matches,” said Hayes. “They seem to forget that we’ve got a number of other hitters.”
Corinne Parker and Kortney Reynolds, Alder’s 6-2 senior “twin towers,” are formidable hitters on the front line, along with 5-8 senior Kayleigh Hall and 5-9 sophomore Emma Shepherd.
“We’ve got a very good blocking game and I feel we have more quality depth than Hartley does,” said Hayes. “We have more overall size and we’re going to put Kortney on their big hitter.
“Depth and hitting are where we have the edge on them,” said Hayes. “From what we’ve seen, their other players hit off the block and can’t quite put the ball down like Nwokolo does.”
Hayes knows that Nwokolo is going to score points.
“She’ll still get them,” she said. “We’ll try to block her, give up to her what we have to and get what we can (at the net).
“We just have to believe in ourselves and play as hard as we did against Highland.”
The Alder-Hartley match will be the nightcap of the evening.
It will follow the other regional semifinal contest between Thornville Sheridan and Indian Valley.
The winners of Thursday’s matches will meet on Saturday (TBA) for the regional title and the right to advance to the state semifinals on Friday, Nov. 9, 2 p.m., at Wright State University.
Tickets for Thursday’s match are on sale at JA from 7 a.m.-3 p.m. on Wednesday and from 7 a.m.-noon on Thursday.
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