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Shenandoah bests Shadyside for 2A crown

MORRISTOWN — Raegan Flood registered 25 kills and scored seven points Saturday as Shenandoah snapped a five-year OVAC volleyball championship drought by sweeping Shadyside — 27-25, 25-21, 25-20 — in the Class 2A final inside “The Hangar” at Union Local High School.

The victory was the Zeps’ 11th straight and spoiled the Lady Tigers’ attempt at capping an unbeaten regular-season before Ohio sectional tournament play begins this week.

All three sets were tight, but Shenandoah head coach Megan Grywalski believed Flood was the source from which everything flowed.

“In the second and third sets, she really stepped up,” she said outside a raucous Zeps locker room, where players were celebrating the school’s 10th OVAC crown.

Shadyside head coach Eric Mercer agreed that Flood helped tilt the result in Shenandoah’s favor.

“She’s a great all-around player,” he said after the Lady Tigers finished regular-season play at 21-1.

“She can pass. She can set. She can swing. She plays smart. We just didn’t adjust as well as I would’ve liked defensively.”

The Zeps (15-7) came out on fire, jumping out to an 11-2 lead. But, from there, Shadyside settled in and started clawing back, eventually grabbing the lead at 16-14 on a Riley Brown point.

Shadyside’s lead swelled to 17-14 before Shenandoah closed to within one at 18-17. Another Brown point helped the Lady Tigers go up 20-17. Then, thanks to a Kylie Baker kill and an ace by Jessica Kuhn, Shadyside looked poised to take the set, leading 24-19.

The Zeps, however, scored five straight points to to forge a tie before winning. Grywalski said it was definitely a momentum changer.

“We came out with a good mentality, started strong and kept finishing,” she said.

The second set, too, came down to the end. Shenandoah led most of the way, but Shadyside hung tough, pulling to within one at 22-21 at one moment before the Zeps pulled away.

“Our serve-receive wasn’t as sharp as it normally is,” Mercer said of the first two sets. ” That played a role.”

Shadyside, which fell in the final for the second straight season, scored the first point in the third set. Shenandoah scored four straight and never trailed again, despite never leading by more than five (23-18).

In a match that’s so tight, little things make a difference. Mercer said the Zeps simply were able to make key plays in key moments.

“We didn’t pass as well as we normally do,” he said. “When we passed the ball well, we scored points. I think that first set was a big momentum shift. We had the lead and they came back.

“They were just better. Congratulations to them.”

Madison Davis finished with 24 assists for the Lady Tigers, while Caroline Mercer had 11 digs. Brown collected eight kills and Baker and Paige Gorby both had six kills.

Although the result wasn’t what it wanted, Mercer told his team it needs to have a short memory with Ohio Division IV sectional play beginning Wednesday. The top-seeded Lady Tigers play the winner of Monday’s Bridgeport-Caldwell match in the second game of a twinbill that opens with Strasburg battling Rosecrans.

“I was proud of the year they had,” Mercer said. “Even though it was a loss, and no one likes to lose, it doesn’t detract from how well they played the season and how far they’ve come as a team.”

Trysten Smith paced Shenandoah with 14 points and 36 assists. Whitney Dixon scored 11 points and had 14 kills and seven digs.

The Zeps also begin tourney play Wednesday, welcoming Conotton Valley.

“This was one of the goals we set at the start of the season,” Grywalski said. “We just kept chipping away. It was nice to beat an undefeated team, too.

“Our goals are to win district, something we haven’t done since the 1970s. That’s our goal. Shadyside is in our district, so we might see them again.”

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