OVAC volleyball tourney set to unfold Saturday

Four defending champions will return and 16 others will be there with hopes of being the next OVAC champions when it all unfolds on Saturday with the annual OVAC Volleyball Championships at Steubenville and Brooke High schools.

Action gets under way at both sites on Saturday, beginning at 10 a.m. with gates opening at 8:30 a.m. Brooke High will be the host for the Class 1-A and 2-A semifinals and finals. Steubenville High’s Crimson Center will be entertaining the Class 3-A, 4-A and 5-A championships.

Coach Fred King’s Lady Wildcats of Paden City will be back to defend their Class 1-A title as a second-seed. Paden City comes in with a very respectable 17-3 conference record, but is being relegated to the second rung by virtue of Madonna’s rare unbeaten 19-0 mark. The Lady Blue Dons were OVAC champions in 2001, but are coming into this weekend’s championships with an unblemished record. Due to the quality of competition in the OVAC, there have been very few unbeatens entering the championships.

Madonna will host a resurgent Beallsville squad on Court One and Paden City will take on a very good St. John Central team on Court Two in the semifinals at Brooke, starting at 12:30 p.m. All four have won OVAC titles in the past. Beallsville most recently in 2008 and St. John Central in 2010.

Quite possibly one of the most interesting semifinals will come in Class 2-A which gets under way at 10 a.m. at Brooke High. The foursome is the most diversified of the day. Top-seeded Steubenville Central, another defending champion, will take on Bridgeport on Court One and second-seeded Frontier will battle Clay-Battelle on Court Two.

While the Lady Crusaders are coming in as 2011 champions, Bridgeport and Frontier have both taken home the gold as well. Bridgeport was a champion in 2004 and Frontier one year earlier in 2003. For the Lady Cee-Bees, this will be their first trip to the OVAC playoffs. The four teams cover four distinct areas of the conference.

At Steubenville, the 3 p.m. semifinals should provide some real excitement as the four teams combined have only seven losses. Top-seeded Shenandoah, Class 3-A winners in 2002, will take on a very good Barnesville team on Court One. During one stretch of the season, the Lady Shamrocks reeled off wins in 11 of 12 straight matches. Tyler Consolidated, second-seeded with a 19-1 OVAC record, will square off with coach Troy Baker’s twice-beaten and defending champion Monroe Central squad.

While Tyler Consolidated and Barnesville will be seeking their first OVAC title, the Lady Seminoles come in with a very successful past in the OVAC playoffs. Baker’s team ran off four straight championship wins from 2005 to 2008 and has been one of the more dominating teams in their class over the past few years.

In the 10 a.m. lid-lifter at Steubenville, top-seeded Oak Glen will take on Meadowbrook on Court One and second-seeded East Liverpool will battled Union Local on Court Two. Coach Ethel Riser’s Lady Bears are defending state champions and carry a 2009 OVAC banner.

East Liverpool is the defending OVAC 4-A champion. Lady Potters’ coach Bob Shansky is one of the winningest coaches in the conference and his teams have been of the most successful in the playoffs. The Lady Potter coach won his first in 1979. Union Local came on strong after opening with a 1-5 mark to qualify. The Lady Jets and Meadowbrook will both be seeking their first-ever OVAC crown in volleyball. UL did win an OVAC title in 1986 when the conference crowned winners in both states.

As luck would have it, the Class 5-A matchups will pit opponents that are very familiar with each other. Top-seeded Indian Creek will take on Edison on Court One in the third meeting between the two teams. They split during the regular season.

Second-seeded University will tip off against Parkersburg South, another pair that split regular-season meetings. Cambridge was the 2011 champion in 5-A. While both University and South will looking for their first conference crown, Indian Creek and Edison have had their share of successes. Edison won the title in 2010, 2008, 2004 and 2001. Indian Creek won all four 3-A titles between 1998 and 2001.

Gates at both locations open at 8:30 a.m. Tickets are $6 for adults and $4 for students. Angie Miller is serving as the championship director.