Pickerington North falls short of reaching state tourney
For the second consecutive season, the Pickerington High School North girls volleyball team came up short in its bid to reach the Division I state tournament.
Ranked fifth in the final state poll, North could not close out third-ranked Massillon Jackson, losing 21-25, 25-14, 20-25, 25-20, 15-8 in a regional final Nov. 3 at Hilliard Davidson to finish 26-2.
“I had a pretty good feeling after the third game and midway through the fourth, but we ran into some trouble with our serve receive that we hadn’t had all season,” coach Kris Kern said. “We didn’t get the last injection of momentum we needed to put them away in the fourth game, they came back and beat us and they carried that over. As we continued to struggle in the fifth game, they were firing on all cylinders.”
Last season, North also led after three games before losing to Findlay 17-25, 25-23, 20-25, 26-24, 15-9 in a regional final to finish 26-2.
“Volleyball is such a game of momentum,” Kern said. “Jackson is the highest-ranked team alive in the tournament, so I thought whoever got out of this regional today was going to have a good chance at state. There’s no shame in losing at this point. It just wasn’t meant to be today. It’s so tough because this is a special group of players. They wanted it so bad and I wanted it for them so bad. There’s a lot of tears in the locker room right now.”
The Panthers led Jackson 17-13 in the fourth game, but the Polar Bears scored the next five points to take an 18-17 lead. With the score was tied at 19, Jackson scored three points in a row on kills by Paige Hill, a Miami University recruit.
In the fifth game, Jackson, which improved to 27-1 and advanced to a state semifinal for the first time, won the first three points and never trailed. The Polar Bears held their biggest lead in the fifth game at 9-2.
“Our seniors finished 100-10, never lost a match in the district or in the OCC(-Ohio Division) and were back-to-back regional runners-up,” Kern said. “They wanted to be the first from North at state, so that’s why it’s difficult. But there’s just no shame.”