Fenwick volleyball on Final Four appearance: ‘We’re not done yet’

Fenwick’s Julia Gardon hits the ball over the net during their Division II regional semifinal volleyball match against McNicholas on Nov. 1 at Vandalia Butler’s Student Activity Center. Fenwick won 3-0. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF
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Fenwick’s Julia Gardon hits the ball over the net during their Division II regional semifinal volleyball match against McNicholas on Nov. 1 at Vandalia Butler’s Student Activity Center. Fenwick won 3-0. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

MIDDLETOWN — None of the players on the Fenwick High School volleyball team were on the varsity roster when the Falcons made their last trip to state in 2015.

A few had older sisters on the team and one was on junior varsity, but their view from afar was nothing like the excitement brewing for them now as the No. 15-ranked Falcons (23-5) prepare for their Division II state semifinal against No. 3 Parma Heights Holy Name (24-3) at noon on Friday at Wright State University’s Nutter Center.

Despite the joy of making it to the Final Four for the fifth time in program history, Fenwick is taking a businesslike mentality into the weekend as the Falcons seek to add a second state title to their collection. They won a Division III championship in 2010.

REGIONAL VOLLEYBALL COVERAGE

» Regional final: Fenwick 3, Roger Bacon 2

» Regional semifinal: Fenwick 3, McNicholas 0

» Nick Graham’s photo gallery from Fenwick-McNicholas

» Fenwick faces McNicholas in All-GCL regional semifinal

“It’s their first time experiencing (state) as players, so they are very excited,” Fenwick coach Tyler Conley said. “But they are actually keeping me tempered like, ‘We have something more to do. We’re not done yet. There is more work to do.’ I love that attitude that going to state isn’t the end goal, winning state is.”

Fenwick advanced to the Final Four by knocking off No. 1 Roger Bacon 3-2 in the regional final last Saturday. It was Falcons’ first postseason match dropping a set as they avenged an Oct. 1 loss to the previously unbeaten Spartans.

Meanwhile, Holy Name will be making its first state appearance since 1982, but appears to be quite the formidable foe.

The Green Wave’s three losses this season came against two Division I-ranked opponents, including No. 2 Padua Franciscan on Sept. 27 and twice to No. 10 Magnificat.

“It’s iron sharpening iron — that’s what our season has been all along,” Conley said. “We go out and play great teams and it just makes us better. They are the same way. They play in a tough conference and play great teams, like Padua Franciscan, which might be the Division I champion. It’s nerve-wracking when you don’t know a lot about your opponent, but all we can go off is stats and kind of figure out who they like to set.

“We just have to serve them tough and see if our best is better than their best. We’ve put ourselves in situations all season long to prepare for this, and we’ve continued to peak. We just need to go out and do what we need to do, put it all out there and let the chips fall where they may.”

Holy Name has two big hitters in Kayla Jarosz (276 kills, 30 aces) and Sam Snow (134 kills), but Green Wave coach Megan Green said they have weapons all over the floor, which has been a big reason for their success.

Ava Nice leads the team with 34 blocks, Lauren Whetstone has 302 digs and Abriana Marchetta handles most of the setting with 442 assists.

“At this point in the season, I feel like we’re definitely playing our best volleyball right now,” Green said. “We are right where I hoped we would be when I looked at the team at the beginning of the season. We’ve created a good, positive culture for our team to grow upon and have trust in each other and believe in each other, and that foundation is what is making our team get better every time we step on the court. We’re excited to be making this push.”

Green said she has been looking at stats and whatever YouTube videos she can find of Fenwick players online, but like Conley, she’s mostly just putting it on her players to go out and play as they have all season.

Fenwick is led by Julia Gardon (296 kills), Elizabeth Hoerlein (200 kills), Grace Dinkelaker (153 kills), Grace Maziar (53 aces, 807 assists) and Bella DeSalvo (416 digs).

Conley called this a “special group” he hopes gets a chance at the championship, which would take place at 3 p.m. Saturday against Mentor Lake Catholic or Columbus Hartley.

“They are such a joy to coach because they pour their heart and soul into each other and really care about each other,” Conley said. “Offensively, it’s fun because we are explosive and diverse. It’s fun to score your own points, and we do a great job of that. Our seniors and juniors really have grown up. We lost 15 girls over the last two years so they had to learn to be leaders, and they figured it out. We haven’t had a bad practice in a long time, and that’s a good feeling when you can go in and just get your work done.

“We worked them hard early in the season and tried to coach them through the leadership, and October was the turning point. They saw what the coaches have been seeing all year that this team is special. We have all the pieces in place and we can make a run.”

D-II state schedule

What: Division II state volleyball tournament

Where: Nutter Center, 3640 Colonel Glenn Highway, Fairborn

Friday's semifinals: Parma Heights Holy Name (24-3) vs. Fenwick (23-5), noon; Mentor Lake Catholic (16-11) vs. Columbus Hartley (21-6), 2 p.m.

Saturday's final: Semifinal winners, 3 p.m.


D-II state schedule

What: Division II state volleyball tournament

Where: Nutter Center, 3640 Colonel Glenn Highway, Fairborn

Friday's semifinals: Parma Heights Holy Name (24-3) vs. Fenwick (23-5), noon; Mentor Lake Catholic (16-11) vs. Columbus Hartley (21-6), 2 p.m.

Saturday's final: Semifinal winners, 3 p.m.

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