Division I State Semifinals Preview
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Semifinal I: #2 St. Joseph Academy vs. #3 Kings SJA Extends Current Win StreakWith their recent regional final win, the Jaguars have extended their current win streak to 14. What is more impressive is that they have not dropped a…
Semifinal I: #2 St. Joseph Academy vs. #3 Kings
SJA Extends Current Win Streak
With their recent regional final win, the Jaguars have extended their current win streak to 14. What is more impressive is that they have not dropped a set in the post season, which also includes only four sets in which their opponents have reached or surpassed 20 points. SJA has been dominant as of late and are playing with a ton of confidence. They have all phases represented really well with top talent and solid numbers. Junior does everything well for this team but it is the role players that are making a big impact. Senior Libero Avery Anders might be the x-factor in this matchup as she has great ability to read and keep the ball off the floor. In the middle is who is second on the team offensively at 2.4 k/s. Her .411 efficiency means she is tough to slow down when she gets her opportunities. This could be an area that SJA can win regarding an offensive presence in the middle and through quicker options. As a lot of their offense goes through Groomes and Foor, if middle and pin can get some quality scores, then that will open the net more. Buckner, a sophomore, has been more consistent as of late.
Kings Halts GGCL’s Season
In back-to-back regional matches versus GGCL opponents, Kings prevailed as the Region 4 champion to the final weekend. The regional round started with a five-set thriller over the defending DI champion that included a 15-13 fifth set score. They then had to face off with St. Ursula who took down top-ranked GGCL rival Seton in five sets. Kings needed just four sets to win although the match opened with a tight 30-28 start in favor of the Knights. Senior setter recently surpassed 3,000 assists for her varsity career and has at least another match to add to that total. She had 79 assists over these two matches. Fellow senior was huge offensively as she led Kings in both contests earning 38 kills over the to go along with 26 digs and four blocks. Senior had a terrific stat line of 33 total kills, 23 digs, eight blocks and seven aces. Libero equaled Marchal with 26 total digs. Although their offense struggled in efficiency (.123) in regional play with the majority of offense going through two arms, Kings has shown they can get it done in other phases of the game that make it really tough for opponents to win. Additionally, as Marchal and Barrett get the bulk of the swings, they both can generate big pace while also having the ability to score through a variety of locations and tempos.
Keys and Prediction
Look for Groomes’ big left arm matching up against the length and blocking prowess of both Marchal and Barrett at times on the same side of the court. These are the elite arms in this match and they will undoubtedly see a lot of opportunities. Kings may win the ball control phase given that Henry along with Barrett and Marchal are all very capable passers. Anders for SJA leads this aspect for her team but will need some support against a Kings team that can create some lethal service pressure. Prediction: Kings in four.
Semifinal II: #7 Oletangy Orange vs. #16 St. Ursula Academy (Toledo)
Pioneers Defeat Unbeaten Irish
Oletangy Orange accomplished something no other team could do in 2023 and that was to take down #8 ranked and previously unbeaten Dublin Scioto, a team that featured the top-ranked senior prospect in Ohio. The 3-0 sweep was highlighted by a solid tandem effort from the Pioneers’ veteran arms in and with 15 and 11 kills respectively. Cugino, who plays libero primarily during the club season, has solid six-rotation skills and can elevate well to score with good movement and pressure on the opponent. She is second on the team at 4.4 digs per contest. Barron, at 6’2, brings a different look with her length as she leads the team at 3.6 k/s. She has earned over 700 kills for her varsity career. Sophomore setter Izzy Schlovin has dished 131 assists over their last four playoff matches for a 10.1 a/s average, well above her season numbers. She is getting her hitters involved through good opportunities. Middle provides 2.1 k/s while leading the team defensively at the net. Her career best numbers have been a big asset and will be needed as they go forward.
Arrows Drop Just One Set to State Round
SUA has been efficient in their wins in the postseason as their only set loss came in the opening frame in their most recent contest versus a solid squad from Avon. This is a group that has some terrific senior veteran leadership that creates a lot of offense. Senior setter is crafty and contributes to this team earning just ahead of 13 kills per set collectively through a respectable .248 efficiency. Fellow senior leads SUA at four kills per set as she can bring some heat. She is complemented well by another senior in and her 3.6 k/s, which is second on the team. Their net presence is skilled and poised, which benefits their production on both sides of the ball.
Keys and Prediction
If SUA can pass and defend well in the first-touch phase they increase their odds to capitalize on their primary arms against a good defensive team. The Pioneers create a lot of opportunities for some arms that can make good things happen both in and out of system, which may be the advantage. In the setting phase it is a capable sophomore for the Pioneers that is playing some of her best ball over recent matches versus a senior leader that has the ability to change the flow of play in different ways at the second contact. Prediction: Oletangy Orange in five.