CAMBRIDGE --- The Ridgewood High School volleyball team finally slayed the dragon.
After years of being ousted from tourney play by perennial volleyball power Tuscarawas Valley, the Lady Generals overcame a case of the first set jitters to post a convincing 16-25, 25-17, 25-21, 25-12 Division III District Championship triumph over the Lady Trojans on Wednesday at Cambridge High School.
Next week's trip to the D-III Regional will be the first for the Lady Generals (25-1) since 2001, and don't think that wasn't on the mind of most of the team.
"One of our main goals we've had all season long is to get out of the districts," commented RHS senior Laura Frazee following the win. "I was just five years old when Ridgewood last won the district, so this is neat, especially to beat such a good program as Tusky Valley."
The outcome was in doubt early as Ridgewood succumbed to tournament jitters in the first set, according to first-year head coach Kayla Crozier. Each team produced seven kills, but Ridgewood committed eight attacking errors and got somewhat dominated at the net. The set ended with a Tusky block.
Ridgewood settled down nicely and spurted to an early 4-1 lead in set two behind kills each from Amanda Lowery and Laura Crawford. After TV knotted the score at 10-10, the Lady Generals went on another tear, grabbing a 15-10 lead on a Frazee kill.
Although Tusky rallied to a 14-16 deficit, the squads traded kills for much of the rest of the set until a flurry of Lady Trojan errors allowed Ridgewood to tie the match.
Set three saw Tusky jump out to a 7-1 lead before Ridgewood stormed back behind the hitting of Crawford. The sophomore pounded a pair of kills to spark an 8-2 rally which tied the score at 9-9. Moments later, kills from Crawford, Allie Dobson and Lowery sent Ridgewood to a 14-12 lead.
Frazee and Lowery produced kills which ballooned the lead to 18-12. From there, the Lady Generals held off a furious rally, as Tusky got to one point deficits on two occasions, but could never tie the set or get momentum. Another Crawford kill sent her team to a 23-21 lead. A final pair of Lady Trojan errors put the win in Ridgewood's column. Tusky committed four receiving errors in the third set loss.
The deciding fourth set was never close. Ridgewood exploded to a quick 4-0 lead on four straight Tusky errors. The lead swelled to 12-4 on a Dobson kill and another pair of Dobson kills powered the Lady Generals into the Regionals on points 24 and 25.
"I think we just needed to relax," Coach Crozier said, "and begin to play our game. We started to step up our offensive tempo and keep to our game plan better.
"Coming into tonight's match with them, we knew they had some really good players and the contest would be a great challenge," she continued, "but that's what tourney play is. Each new step is harder and more challenging than the one before it."
Crawford, Frazee and Dobson dominated the attacking stats. Crawford finished with 16 kills while Frazee and Dobson finished with 11 and seven, respectively.
Crawford also contributed a match high 27 digs; Frazee added 16 and produced three ace serves; Lowery had four blocks; Morgan McDorman added 17 digs and three aces and setter Erika Micheal dished out 36 assists.
For Tusky Valley (21-5), Sydney Gilland led with a dozen kills, while setter Erin Weisgarber recorded 30 assists and libero Maia Dunlap had 40 digs.
Ridgewood advanced to the title match with a lopsided 25-12, 25-10, 25-19 win in the semifinals over Fort Frye.
For the Lady Generals, Crawford led with 17 kills and 14 digs. McDorman and Frazee added 13 digs and 10 digs, respectively. Frazee and Lowery combined for 13 ace serves and Michael was credited with 28 assists.
Fort Frye (16-6) was paced by Megan Hesson with 11 kills and four digs. Teammates Taylor Pennock and Bailey Thieman each added seven kills. Lady Cadet setters Alyssa Skinner and Alli Hesson combined for two dozen assits.
NEXT -- Ridgewood is now a Division III "Sweet Sixteen" team and will play on Wednesday, Oct. 30 at Logan High School in regional play. The match is set for 6 p.m. against a team from the Southeast District.