Their height and power at the net is enough to scare aware just about any non-traditional volleyball power in the state, but the Gilmour Academy spikers seemed to have everyone running from district play this year.
Thanks to this year’s postseason format, which features “super regions,” programs were seeded region-wide with the higher seeds getting to pick what district they competed in, rather than having predetermined districts by area. That said, there was nothing stopping other top Division II programs from avoiding the Lady Lancers.
After all, the Gilmour Academy girls (19-1) are ranked No. 1 among Division II competitors in the state, according to the coaches poll, with their lone loss coming against Division I No. 1-ranked Padua Franciscan (18-0). So, who could blame other Division II programs from shying away?
In a perfect world involving a “super region,” the top-seed Lady Lancers should have played a No. 8-seed opponent in their district final.
Instead, the Gilmour Academy spikers ended up beating up on No. 11-seed Medina Buckeye (16-8) by way of a 3-0 home sweep, 25-14, 25-8, 25-8, on Saturday to capture their 14th district title in the past 15 seasons, with the exception of a loss against Beaumont in 2017.
“There were 36 teams and 36 seeds,” Gilmour sixth-year head coach Danny Coughlin said. “And, when certain teams pick their line, everyone scatters. And I understand why they did it the way they did this year, with not one school hosting a district – they let the higher seed host. So, I get it, and I understand it. I hope it’s not the same next year.”
In short, Gilmour went from playing one of the most competitive schedules in Northeast Ohio, including nine games against state-ranked opponents, like division foes Notre Dame-Cathedral Latin, Lake Catholic, Holy Name and Beaumont, to not really getting tested through its first three playoff games.
Against Buckeye, the Lady Lancers put away 47 kills on 60 attempts with an offense that featured 6-foot-1 junior Kathryn Randorf, 15 kills, 5-foot-11 senior Brinn MacLellan, 10 kills, 6-foot sophomore Anna Rarick, seven kills, 5-foot-10 senior Jocelyn Carter, five kills, and 5-foot-11 junior Sabrina Gremm, four kills. Conversely, Buckeye registered 11 kills on 70 attempts, getting blocked five times by Randorf.
“The only thing we can take away is that we started really slow in set one,” Coughlin said. “So, one, we’ve got to figure out the pace of the other team, the speed of the ball, how hard they hit, how hard they serve. Once we figure that out, we make the adjustments on our side of the court that we need to. From there, we kind of did what we did.”
The opening stanza was tied, 12-12, before Gilmour went on a 13-2 run to finish the frame and continue that momentum in the latter two sets.
Other stats leaders in the Lady Lancers district title victory, Rarick had six aces, sophomore defensive specialist Laney Klika had five aces and 11 digs, senior libero Emmy Klika had 21 digs, and senior setter Ava Nestor recorded 11 assists with five digs.
Despite the lopsided results in district competition, Coughlin said his girls have remained focused on continuing to get better for the long haul.
“Well, our A-side, B-side is ridiculously competitive, so our practices are pretty fast-paced and hard,” he said. “We keep them scripted in that fashion. So, during our four off days this past week, we were full blast – the gas pedal all the way down, so to speak.
“And, second, we always save a scrimmage for the end of the year. So, fortunately this week we get to scrimmage St. Joe’s. That’ll get us back to a fast-paced game with kids that aren’t from Gilmour.”
St. Joseph Academy (14-9), which plays a regular-season schedule packed with perennial powers from all corners of the state, is ranked No. 9 among Division I competitors in the Ohio.
In two regular-season meetings, the Gilmour girls defeated St. Joseph Academy by a 3-1 result on Oct. 6 and a 3-0 sweep on Oct. 15.
“The thing about St. Joe’s is that they’re loud, they’re fast, they play with energy, they play with effort,” Coughlin said. “Those are very tough teams to beat, and I think it’ll be very good practice going into Bishop Hartley, because I think (St. Joseph’s) outsides are pretty similar to what we’re going to face.”
In their Division II regional semifinal, the Lady Lancers are lined up to lock horns with state No. 3-ranked Columbus Bishop Hartley (15-2) at 5:30 p.m. Nov. 5 at neutral site Lexington High School.
Hartley’s main offensive weapons are 6-foot-3 sophomore middle Ella Brandewie, 3.7 kills per set, 5-foot-9 sophomore Kasmyn Crockett, 2.1 kills per set, and 6-foot-1 sophomore Katie McLane, 1.8 kills per set.
“Bishop Hartley has always had a strong program, but I think this may be a good matchup for us, because their big hitter, she’s a middle hitter,” Coughlin said. “And our two strengths are our middles. You know, Kathryn (Randorf) and Brinn (MacLellan) are probably our two strongest players on the team, and that’s our strongest position.
“And I think this is a really good matchup for us, because we have really good, athletic outside hitters, and I think their outsides are a little undersized. So, they’re going to have to run their offense through the middle. And they have a good middle hitter, but we have two really good middle hitters.”
Bishop Hartley’s two losses this season both came against Division I state No. 11-ranked Columbus Bishop Watterson – the first being a 3-0 sweep, and the latter being a 3-2 decision.
The winner of the Gilmour Academy-Bishop Hartley semifinal will likely win the region title. The other semifinal features state No. 15-ranked Sandusky Perkins (23-2) and unranked Maumee (16-10).
The regional championship game will be played at 2 p.m. Nov. 7 at Lexington High School.