The top-ranked Hilliard Darby High School boys volleyball team held off Beavercreek 25-20, 25-22, 23-25, 25-21 in a Division I state quarterfinal June 1 at Capital.

The Panthers improved to 26-2 and will play second-ranked Cincinnati St. Xavier (21-5) in a semifinal at 10 a.m. June 2 at Capital. Third-ranked Mount Vernon (26-2) and fifth-ranked Cincinnati Moeller (19-6) will meet in the other semifinal at noon, with the state final to follow at 4 p.m.

Beavercreek, which was ranked sixth, finished 20-6.

“That’s not the way we wanted to advance, but we’ll take it and hopefully play better tomorrow,” said Darby junior outside hitter Adam Ansel, who had 24 kills, three blocks and an ace. “We lost some focus in game 3 and didn’t stick together. We started to blame each other and we can’t do that. We have to stay united. But I’m happy we played through it and fought hard to rally to win the fourth game.”

The Panthers seemed to roll through the first two games, although a late surge by Beavercreek made score of the second game closer. In the third game, Darby took a 6-2 lead before the Beavers tied it at 10 and again at 11. The Panthers then led 20-16, but Beavercreek tied it at 21 and again at 22 before pulling out the win.

In the fourth game, the Beavers jumped out to a 6-1 lead and Darby didn’t take its first lead until a block by Ansel made it 18-17. With the game tied at 20, Ansel had kills on five of the match’s final six points.

Also for the Panthers, middle hitter Dominic Melchiorre had six kills, three blocks and two aces, opposite hitter Griffin Hart had 10 kills and a block and libero Nick Hermosilla and setter Noah Platfoot both had a pair of aces.

“It’s a dangerous game when you lose focus and don’t keep the pedal down,” Darby coach Evan Bell said. “Just a little bit of life late in the second (game) gave (Beavercreek) confidence they could play with us and then we let them finish us off in the third so they had all the momentum in the fourth.

“We have to remember that we can’t play like we’re the hunted. We have to go out there, stay hungry and hunt other teams down. Give credit to Beavercreek for running with the momentum. They had a lot to play for and a lot on their minds this week (with the tornado destruction May 27).”

Darby, which beat St. Xavier 25-16, 25-21, 25-15 on April 27, has not lost to any teams from Ohio this season as both of its losses came in a tournament held March 29 and 30 in Wheaton, Illinois.

The Panthers reached the state final each of the past two seasons, losing to Moeller 25-22, 25-22, 25-18 a year ago after falling to Cleveland St. Ignatius 25-18, 26-24, 25-19 in 2017. They won state titles in 2013 and 2015.

Division II

Watterson 3, Kettering Alter 1

The eighth-ranked Eagles beat the third-ranked Knights 25-18, 22-25, 25-15, 25-23 in a Division II state semifinal June 1 at Capital.

Watterson improved to 17-9 and will face sixth-ranked Cuyahoga Falls Walsh Jesuit in the state final at 2 p.m. June 2 at Capital. Alter finished 19-8.

The Eagles, who have a nine-member senior class led by second-team all-state outside hitter Jack Brinkman and second-team all-region libero Brendan Foley, had lost to the Knights 25-17, 25-17 on March 30.

Watterson, which was making its first state tournament appearance since 2014 when it was state runner-up, trailed Alter 21-20 in the fourth game before rallying to take a 24-22 lead.

“We played them early on in the season and they were our first super tough opponent,” Eagles coach Ryan Thompson said. “We’ve made a lot of changes (since then), both in our lineup, rotations and what our offense and defense actually looks like since then. I know they got better, too. It’s Alter. They’re a phenomenal team. (They’re consistent) and they don’t make errors. The whole lineup, there’s not a weak spot. There’s nothing to exploit. You have to be the better volleyball team if you’re going to beat Alter.”

—Jarrod Ulrey

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