COLUMBUS — The Mount Vernon Yellow Jackets boys volleyball team is headed back to the regional finals.
The Jackets took on a familiar opponent in Dublin Scioto in Wednesday’s semifinal. Like their last meeting, Mount Vernon made short work of the Irish, winning by the score of 25-18, 22-25, 25-16, 25-15.
The Jackets knew what to look for in Dublin Scioto, having beaten the Irish on May 8 in straight sets. On Wednesday, Mount Vernon used the same formula — shore up the defense and keep the ball away from Josh Ashwill.
“We’re not a really great blocking team,” Mount Vernon head coach Alan Cassell said. “I thought Dan Tharp, when he came in for Alex Robinson, was doing okay. We needed to have something different.”
With Tharp, Matt McManaway and Cole Shoemaker anchoring the net, Dan Eddy helped in the back row. He led the team with six digs.
But Mount Vernon’s strength is in its offense and its diversity. A number of different players can step up and make the difference offensively.
On Wednesday, it was McManaway.
Every time the Jackets fell into a slump, McManaway had a well-timed kill. Three times, he had a kill that ended an Irish point streak of three or more. He ended the night with 11 kills, the most on the team.
“Matt’s done a good job this year,” said Cassell. “All three of our middles, we’re very comfortable with. Sometimes, Matt gets a little down on himself. But, for a sophomore, he’s had a tremendous year for us.”
Shoemaker, who dominated early, had 10 kills on the night. Josiah Burney added six, Aaron Nixon had three, and Tharp had two. Bryan Downs had 31 assists.
Mount Vernon took the first real advantage with an 8-0 run in the first set, peppered with aces by Burney. Scioto eventually responded with a 6-0 run of its own to close the gap to 19-15, but McManaway had his first run-ending kill that helped propel the Jackets to a first set victory.
In the second set, Mount Vernon had its lowest point in the match when it allowed Scioto to score seven straight to build a 14-7 advantage.
Mount Vernon eventually brought the set to within one (21-20), but the Irish held on.
“I don’t really know (what happened),” said Cassell. “We’ve been like that all year. When we don’t give up a run of four or five points, we can play with anybody.”
The Yellow Jackets made their biggest statement in Set 3 with an 8-0 run that showed Scioto’s fatigue. Unable to mount a rally of their own, the Irish dropped the final two sets.