Olivia Riley, Contributor
WASHINGTON COURT HOUSE — Miami Trace’s outstanding record didn’t seem to be a problem for Circleville on Tuesday.
In a Division II district semifinal, the Tigers (22-2) traveled to Washington Court House and swept the Panthers (18-2) by a 25-19, 25-18, 25-22 final.
Despite this season being monumental for the FAC champion Panthers, Circleville wasn’t phased.
“First, I have to give credit to Miami Trace,” Circleville coach Danielle Perkins said. “They’re a solid team. We came into the match very business-oriented and we knew what we needed to accomplish. We put together a strong match to beat a good team like Miami Trace.”
After grabbing an early 6-3 lead in the first set, Circleville let the Panthers rally to tie the score at 9-9 when MT’s strong offense started to heat up behind senior Olivia Fliehman and sophomore Sophia Parsons.
Trace then earned its first lead of the match at 15-14 but the Tigers took a much-needed timeout and didn’t look back. They rattled off four straight points and before eventually taking the set, 25-19.
The second set was all Tigers.
They led by margins of 7-4, 13-11, and 19-5 before sealing the deal on a 25-18 win to go ahead 2-0 in the match. Defense was a key factor in the win and throughout the rest of the match.
“My team played phenomenal defense tonight,” Perkins said. “We did really well keeping the ball alive.”
With the district final in sight, the Tigers came out of the huddle strong in the third.
They leaped to a 6-2 lead, behind Kenzie McConnell in the front row and Cara Cooper in the back, and kept Trace’s defense on their toes with smart shots down the line.
Circleville took leads of 13-11, 19-15, and 24-17 late in the match. Despite a last-minute effort from the Panthers, the Tigers closed out a 25-22 win to advance.
Circleville will now face Sheridan, a three-set winner over Vinton County on Tuesday, in a Division III district final at noon, Saturday at Southeastern High School.
“We haven’t been to the district final for a few years, but our girls aren’t satisfied,” Perkins said. “This is a fun group. They want to keep playing.”
For the Tigers, senior Kenzie McConnell led the offense with a whopping 25 kills on the night. Defensively, McConnell totaled 22 digs while Cara Cooper added 17.
For Miami Trace, Fliehman led with 16 kills and added 17 digs while Delaney Eakins added 16 digs on the night. Miami Trace ends their season as sectional champions after finishing undefeated in league play for the first time in school history.
The Panthers also say goodbye to five seniors in Fliehman, Eakins, Chloe Scott, Saylor Moore and Piper Grooms.