Derrick Webb, Staff Writer
SUGAR GROVE — While Saturday’s Division III regional final didn’t pan out like Adena had hoped for, the Warriors are in good hands moving forward.
After taking a 2-0 match lead against Tuscarawas Valley, Adena (22-2) ended up falling in five sets by a 25-23, 25-23, 25-23, 26-24, 15-7 final.
But the Warriors graduate just one senior, albeit a talented one in setter Ari DaRif. So when next fall rolls around, this year’s roster members will have experience on a big stage under their belts, knowing what to expect and what they have to do to claim a regional title.
“All this experience and being here, getting to play in two regional matches … that will hopefully spill over into next season and make us even better then,” Adena coach Laura Smith said. “Our entire team is back except for Ari DaRif. We feel pretty good about that.”
Speaking of DaRif, she’ll definitely leave a hole to fill. She ends her career with over 1,000 career assists and has helped the Warriors win 64 games during her four-year career.
“I’m so glad she came back to play,” Smith said of DaRif. “She was kind of on the fence with COVID and all that. She got in contact with me in July and said, ‘Coach, I want to play.’ I said, ‘Thank goodness.’ Ari is a nice little setter and she’s got a great serve. When she was a freshman, she was our libero. She plays pretty good defense and she’s been setting the ball since her sophomore season. I was really pleased that she came back.”
Saturday’s first set belonged to Adena from the start.
After Jenna Martin gave the Warriors a 3-2 lead, DaRif logged two straight aces for a 10-3 score. That advantage swelled to 12-3, ending an 8-0 run. The Trojans (27-1) threw a counter-punch, trimming the deficit to 24-23, but Adena’s Ellie Harper ended the set with a kill to put Adena ahead 1-0.
The Warriors used a 6-0 run in the second to go ahead 9-3 early. Hope Garrison then made it 12-6 with an ace before Sydney Foglesong powered down a kill to make it a 15-8 ballgame. Later, Makaela Lovely pushed the lead to 22-16 before Adena closed out a 25-23 win.
With their backs against the wall, the Trojans fought back in the third. In a see-saw affair, Adena took a 20-17 lead thanks to a kill from Makenna Lovely. But TV went ahead 21-20 and eventually put away a 25-23 win of its own to cut the Warriors’ match lead to 2-1.
“We played hard and tried to make some adjustments but they made adjustments as well,” Smith said. “We tried to cover certain areas and we started blocking their cross courts and it just started going down the line. Whether it was a hit or a roll shot, it was going where it needed to.”
Tusky took a 14-13 lead in the third before Adena went ahead 18-16, ending a 5-0 run with a kill from Foglesong. Then, with Adena leading 23-21, the Trojans went on a set-ending 5-1 run to force a tie.
The fifth was all Trojans. They jumped out to an 8-1 lead before coasting to a 15-7 win.
Harper led the Warriors statistically with 13 kills while Makaela Lovely added 10 kills. Martin finished with seven kills, two solo and three assist blocks, Burns had seven kills, and Foglesong and Makenna Lovely both added six kills.
The Warriors end their year after winning a second consecutive district title and a first conference title since 2016. And rest assured, there’s more things to come.
“I think we’ll be even more hungry,” Smith said of next fall. “We’re going to have a boatload of seniors and when you have seniors on your team, it makes a difference. They have a different mindset because it’s their last chance. They have a little bit better understanding of what needs to be done.”