Volleyball season in the Ohio Valley is heading into tournament time without skipping a beat, without looking back and primed to take on the best of the best.
It all starts on Saturday morning at Steubenville High School's Crimson Center where the Ohio Valley Athletic Conference will serve up another exciting round of championship volleyball and crown five class champions in the process.
It has been a sport that has been getting better and better each year and the teams have been more competitive with each new season. If you're looking for parity, there's no place but the OVAC five class races will you find a better example.
BRIDGEPORT’S Maclaine Murad goes up for a return during a match earlier this season against Beallsville. Murad and the Lady Bulldogs are the top seed in the OVAC Class 2A Tournament, which is set for Saturday evening at Steubenville High School.
This year's races were so competitive and tight that in the final two weeks each race had six or seven teams still in the running to qualify for the championships on Saturday.
Class 5A was probably settled before the other five races with Indian Creek finishing as the No. 1 seed, neighboring Edison as the No. 2 seed followed by Morgantown and Parkersburg South in the three and four slots, respectively.
Indian Creek and Edison have been two of the premier programs in Eastern Ohio over the past few years and could find themselves battling in the finals in what would be a Buckeye 8 final. Both schools have been multiple OVAC champions in the sport and both are hoping to add a bit more hardware to the trophy case.
Class 4-A had a very interesting race that came down to the last day of the season and bonus points. Of course, it was no mystery that Oak Glen was going to punch its ticket to the championships. Owning a 19-1 OVAC and having a nearly 30-point lead over the second-seed Steubenville, the Lady Bears will be the team to beat in the 4-A session. With Lynn Meyer's Lady Big Red holding the second seed, Meadowbrook and East Liverpool will be sitting in the next two spots.
Class 3A has been the most impressive of the five classes.
Seven of the 10 Class 3-A teams have 13 or more wins and pulling the top four from that group was a major task. Top-seeded Shenandoah has been hot all season and is hoping to stay that way heading into the post-season. Second-seeded Magnolia, 10-0 at one point in the season, has been playing very well and has done so against a pretty tough schedule. Jeff Beros' Buckeye Trail squad has been a regular in the OVAC playoffs and come in as the No. 3 seed just ahead of Tyler Consolidated. This class could be the most heated and exciting of the day.
Class 2-A is another session that will hard to pick a winner. With Wellsville opting not to participate in the tournament despite having the best record in the division, the four-team battle for the 2-A title is a real toss-up. Bridgeport has come back from a slow start to grab onto the top-seed while River's up-and-down season good enough to be a solid No. 2 seed. Clay-Battelle, despite the last season tragedy at the school will join Frontier as the other two seeds. The Lady Cee-Bees are coming in as the three-seed and Frontier will coming in as the No. 4 seed.Class 1A has an interesting look to it with two teams at the top that have amassed 15 and 16 wins, but no slouch of a team right behind in third. Madonna (with 15 wins at the cut-off) and St. John Central (with 16 victories at the cut-off) have been jockeying back-and-forth in the top spot all season and hold down the top two seeds with Madonna at No. 1 and the Lady Irish at No. 2. Paden City will have the third seed with a 13-7 OVAC record while Trinity Christian holds the fourth spot.
Four of last year's champions return in hopes of repeating. Madonna was the 1A winner last season, Tyler Consolidated prevailed in 3A, Meadowbrook notched the 4A crown and Edison collared the 5A title. Steubenville Central was the 2A champion last season and moved up to 3A this season finishing seventh with a 13-6 OVAC record.
Doors open at 7:30 a.m. on Saturday with the Class 3A semi-finals scheduled to start at 9 a.m. using two gyms.
In each class, the finals and consolation finals will start immediately following the semi-finals. The remainder of the Saturday lineup has semifinals starting at 11:30 a.m. for Class 4A; 2 p.m. for Class 5A; 4:30 p.m. for Class 1A and 7 pm. for Class 2A.