PARMA HEIGHTS, Ohio – Rocky River swept three sets from the Fairview Warriors in Division II Parma Heights District bracket action on Wednesday night. The victory sends the Pirates to the district final for a second straight season.
River’s Wednesday win – by scores of 25-23, 25-14, and 24-15 – marked the team’s fifth in a row. The tournament’s No. 3 seed now advances to face its No. 1 seed, the Green Wave of Holy Name High School. The match-up will mark the seventh over the last 15 months between the two programs. The Pirates have won two of the previous six; both came last year. In 2018, Holy Name is 2-for-2 against Rocky River, with a 3-0 victory logged on Sept. 11 and a 3-1 win recorded on Oct. 4.
With a 3-0 win over No. 4 Bay in Wednesday’s other semifinal at Holy Name, the Green Wave ran their season record to 21-3. Knocking off a 20-win team at this point in the season is no small task. But that’s exactly when the Pirates did in their semi on Wednesday.
Toting a 20-3 mark into the match and having downed Rocky River in a match earlier this season, Fairview stood as a significant hurdle to overcome if the Pirates were to get another crack at the Green Wave.
River established a five-point lead mid-set in the first game, but the Warriors battled back to get within one, at 24-23. The Pirates gutted out the 25-23 win in that first game and never looked back. Getting production up and down the roster and on both sides of the attack line, Rocky River had a firm grasp of sets two and three.
Emblematic of Rocky River’s fine play on both sides of the line, the Maroon & White got 11 kills (against just one error) and 11 digs from Olivia Young. Front-court-mates Ava Rauser and Rachael Waite added 10 and nine kills respectively. Marissa Smiley fed that group, collecting 34 assists on the night.
Busy in service reception and frustrating the Fairview frontcourt, Raygan Murray, registered 22 digs against just one miscue. Amanda Franz added 13 digs, her most in a single match since Sept. 22. Smiley Gabbie Tianello each garnered nine digs. Murray and Rauser each recorded three aces on the evening.
As a team, the Pirates cobbled together a .186 hitting percentage. That marked a significant improvement over the minus-.015 the squad logged against the Warriors in the 2-0 loss on Sept. 8. The River backcourt struggled its way to just 16.5 digs per set in that loss to an aggressive, talented Fairview team. On Wednesday, Murray and company cranked out 22.3 digs per set. The Pirates (17-7) showed some growth and improvement and turned a problematic challenge into an opportunity.
And that’s what the Pirates now have in front of them: a Saturday matinee (2:30 p.m. at Holy Name High School) district final against the Holy Name Green Wave.
Over 2017-18, Rocky River has gone a combined 37-12 (.755); fully a third of its losses have come against Holy Name. None of those four losses will be replayed on Saturday. The district final is a fresh, best-of-five-sets affair untethered to what came before. One match. One new opportunity.
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