HEATH, Ohio — As Marietta head coach Ron Kidder pointed out, there are around 200 Division II varsity volleyball teams in the state of Ohio, and only one will end the season with a win.
Saturday inside Heath High School, the Tigers finally saw their unprecedented tournament run come to an end, falling in three sets to Bishop Hartley (25-12, 25-15, 25-4). This year’s Marietta team won the program’s first district title since 1975 and advanced to the Elite Eight for the first time in school history. Despite all the success, getting eliminated still hurts.
“This will sting for a while,” said Kidder, whose Tigers finished with a 25-3 record. “There’s only one (team) in the end that’s going to win it. Everybody else is going to go home with a loss. But to be in the Elite Eight, amazing. Absolutely amazing.”
Hartley is a perennial powerhouse in volleyball and improved to 22-6. The Hawks, who will play Gilmour Academy at 6 p.m. Thursday at Wright State in the state semifinals, showed very few flaws in their game Saturday.
“They’re a nice team, a nice program, one of the best in the state,” Kidder said. “We didn’t pass or serve well today, and that starts everything. (Hartley) played really well. They were on their A-game and we weren’t. That just puts us in a hole and you can’t afford that against these guys.”
Hartley led from start to finish in the first set, but the Tigers only trailed 8-6 after Anna Ritter had a kill and an ace on back-to-back plays. Kidder called timeout after the Hawks used a 4-0 run to make it 12-6. Izzy Becker, the Tigers’ only senior, had a kill out of the timeout, but Hartley again scored four straight points to build some more cushion. Reagan Karcher’s ace got Marietta within seven, but the Hawks scored eight of the next 10 points to go up 1-0 in the match.
The Tigers stayed with the Hawks in set No. 2 as kills by Tori Dawson, Ari Buckley and Becker had MHS within five at 18-13. Hartley, though, answered with kills by Kaylee Musick and Michaela Murray to stretch the lead to nine and never looked back.
Dawson began the third set with a kill to give the Tigers their only lead of the night, but the Hawks took the next 12 points before Buckley’s tip made it 12-2. The orange and black weren’t able to grab any momentum as Hartley dominated down the stretch to secure a Final Four berth.
“We didn’t play well today,” Kidder said. “I tried to tell the girls, ‘Don’t let this define your season.’ We’ve won three championships, just couldn’t get this one tonight. We’ve had a great season. I’m so proud of these kids. A lot of them are coming back. We’ve got to keep getting better.”
After the match, Kidder handed the regional runner-up plaque to MHS athletic director Cody Venderlic and said, “We don’t have any of these in the trophy case.
“They’ve set a new standard for Marietta High School and did things no other team’s ever done in the school’s history. Amazing kids on and off the court. Very coachable. They work their butts off in the classroom, out of the classroom, on the volleyball court. Dream team.”
Kidder, who is approaching 500 career coaching victories, has guided some very talented volleyball teams at Marietta. However, something about this year’s team was different.
“They’re solid all the way around. There is not a weak spot on the team. They all know what they do and they all do what they do well, so you can’t really pick on somebody. Some teams might have three or four good players, but there’s always going to be a weak player here or there. This team didn’t have that this year. And they’re so close, they play so well together and they have each other’s back. As a coach, you wish you had every season with a group of kids like these. I love them to death.”
Contact Jordan Holland at email@example.com.
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