Clay Archer, Contributor
CHILLICOTHE — If you left last night’s match between Chillicothe and Washington thinking you’ve seen that sequence before, it’s because you have … four times to be exact.
The Cavaliers and Blue Lions have been thorns in the other’s side for much of this season. Wednesday’s match marked not only the fourth time the Frontier Athletic Conference foes met, but it also made a fourth time where a winner couldn’t be decided in straight sets.
Going into the Division II sectional semifinal, the Cavaliers had taken two of three from the Blue Lions … winning in five sets on Oct. 5 and in three sets at the Unioto Invitational on Aug. 31.
When it mattered the most, the Blue Lions (13-10) evened the series — one that will have to be continued next fall — with a five-set tourney style win; 25-20, 16-25, 19-25, 25-14 and 15-10.
“We knew it was going to be a tough one, coming to Chillicothe,” Washington coach Ashley DeAtley said. “We’ve seen them four times this year. We knew what they were going to bring and they knew us pretty well. It was going to come down to who made less errors. We just had those back-and-forth long rallies and we got some things going our way. We just kept pushing.”
Similar to Washington’s five-set win over Chillicothe back on Sept. 10, senior Rayana Burns was everywhere. The 5-foot-11 hitter ended the night with 23 kills, two blocks and 11 digs.
She also got some help from her teammates, namely Brittney Wilson and Halli Wall.
“Anybody can see that Rayana is a force to be reckoned with,” DeAtley said. “She plays back row and front row, she’s all over the court just tracking down balls … anytime you have a player like that on the floor, it’s a privilege to have. And we also had some others step up. Brittney Wilson did a good job in the front row, making sure we could put the ball where it needed to be, Halli Wall does a nice job as well and she’s led the way all season. All the girls do a good job.”
Washington started the first set by jumping out to a 7-4 lead. Chillicothe responded quickly though, tying the game at 8-8 with a 4-1 run. After seeing ties again at 11 and 12, the Blue Lions managed to build a 20-16 lead before eventually taking a 1-0 match lead with a 25-17 win.
In the second, Chillicothe bounced back with a 25-16 win, one they captured rather easily, tying the match 1-1. After a neck-and-neck start to the third that saw three ties, Chillicothe broke the last deadlock at 16-16 and didn’t look back to win the set 25-19, taking a 2-1 match lead.
With Washington in a 2-1 hole and its season on the line, the Blue Lions didn’t flinch.
“Coach held us down,” Burns said. “We were shaky and nerves were starting to get to us in that second set. She just brought us back in. We just came together and started to play together.”
The fourth set swung the pendulum of momentum as Burns and the Blue Lions started with an 8-1 run and used that energy to seize a 25-17 win, forcing a fifth set.
With momentum on its side, Washington took a 6-5 lead in the final set and eventually won 15-10.
Wilson ended the night with seven kills, five blocks and nine digs, Wall finished with four kills, three blocks, 32 assists and 20 digs, Aaralyne Estep led the team defensively with 29 digs, and senior Mackenzie Truex also lent a helping hand, posting 11 digs.
Washington advances to a Division II sectional final at 4 p.m., Saturday at top-seeded Sheridan.
“It’ll be pretty hype for us,” Burns said. “We’re going to be pretty pumped and excited to play.”