Independence had exactly 365 days to prepare for its rematch with Lutheran West, the team that ended the Blue Devils’ season in the 2016 playoffs.
The top-seeded Blue Devils made the most of that opportunity with a dominating 3-0 win over the fourth-seeded Longhorns in the Division III Elyria District semifinals on Wednesday.
“It was a good feeling,” said Independence coach Megan Osysko. “It was basically a repeat scenario from last season, so it was good to fight back and earn that next step and the opportunity to play on Saturday in the finals.”
Independence, ranked fourth in the latest Division III state coaches’ poll, will play Brooklyn, the district’s second seed, in Saturday’s district championship match at Elyria High School.
The Blue Devils won the first set 25-9 then went on to complete the sweep with 25-13 and 25-10 wins in the final two sets.
“We stuck to our game plan of controlling the ball on our side and playing to our tempo and pace,” Osysko said. “That’s what we reminded the girls of in timeouts, to not stop pushing and to keep up the intensity and not change our game plan.”
Sophomore Kalli Screptock led the Blue Devils with 10 kills while sophomore Katie Taliaferro and freshman Grace Smotek pounded out nine and eight, respectively.
Junior Katie May and senior Maura Collins both posted a team-high five service aces and sophomore Maddy Bilinovic led the Blue Devils with 22 digs.
May also recorded 28 assists in the win.
“Our win over Lutheran West feels great,” May said. “They have always been a good program and our goal last night was to come in and take care of business. This sweep gave us the momentum we need going into Saturday.”
Independence played without one of its top hitters in junior Lexi Prokopius, who was out sick.
Junior Kaitlin Richards stepped in to fill in for Prokopius. She recorded two kills and two digs in the win.
“Everyone played well,” Osysko said. “Katie Richards came in and played Lexi’s role for the day. She did a good job with that and we knew she would. Katie Taliaferro stepped it up as well. She made a lot of good blocks for us. We’re happy with that.”
Independence improved to 23-1 on the year.