Cardington put together three consecutive strong sets of play on Saturday to easily dispatch Elgin in a Division III volleyball sectional by scores of 25-14, 25-10, 25-12.
“We’ve talked about that the entire season — putting three sets of dominating play together,” said Pirate coach Ryan Treese. “I think we played to our level the entire time and never let them have any momentum.”
Four points from Liz Long staked Cardington to a 5-1 lead early in the first set. Elgin would get within a 9-7 margin thanks to a pair of points from Tirah Nelson, but the Pirates responded with a defensive score and four points from Jadine Mills to lead by seven. One each from Izzy Wickline and Kyleigh Bonnette and three from Hannah Wickline boosted their advantage to a 23-12 margin and two defensive points closed out the Comets in the opening game.
Cardington would then dominate the second game. Two points by Liz Long were followed by four by Bonnette and one from Hannah Wickline. Cadie Long then would tallied seven straight points and the score was 18-3 in favor of the Pirates.
Treese noted that good serving by his team put his offense in good position to utilize its size advantage at the net, citing the efforts of Hannah Wickline and Ashlee Tharp from the hitter positions.
Elgin would attempt to rally, getting three points from Mekena Smith to get within a 20-9 margin. However, the Pirates would close out the game behind three points from Bonnette to be one match away from their second-straight sectional title.
It wouldn’t take long for the team to be well on its way to that goal in the third game. Liz Long opened with two points and Bonnette followed with six in a row as the Pirates jumped in front by a 9-2 margin. Then, leading 13-6, Cardington got two from Izzy Wickline and three from Liz Long to boost their advantage to a 19-7 margin. Three defensive points and three from the serving of Maddie Linkous would then propel them to the three-set sweep of Elgin.
Treese looked at the end result of the match as evidence to how his team has grown through the season. When they hosted an early-season invitational, Cardington had played Elgin and won by scores of 25-18 and 25-19 in a much more closely-contested match.
“Going into the season, we only had three returning letter-winners and of our top eight, five were either new to high school or new to varsity,” he said. “Being able to grow like that is awesome.”
Hannah Wickline finished with 14 kills and two blocks in the match, while Izzy Wickline added 10 kills and two blocks and Liz Long had seven kills, 13 digs and four aces. Bonnette tallied five aces and 32 assists and Cadie Long had 13 digs.
Now, the team will return to Mount Vernon Nazarene University for the district semifinals with the goal of making the team’s first ever trip to the district finals.
“I told them that this might be our first time being the second seed, but we still have a target on our backs,” said Treese. “I think getting that first one under the freshmen’s belts was good for their confidence. We’re going back to Mount Vernon and we have a lot better energy.”
Rob Hamilton can be reached at 419-946-3010, ext. 1807. Connect with him on Twitter at @SportsMCS