Independence earns return trip to regionals

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Independence Volleyball

Top-seeded Independence earned a three-set sweep of No. 2 Oberlin in Saturday’s Division III Elyria District championship match.

The Blue Devils won the match 25-15, 25-19, 25-20 to earn a second straight trip to the Barberton Regional.

“Winning our second straight district title is a great thing for this team and this program,” senior Katie May said. “Oberlin made us compete today and it was a pretty good test for us. Our hitters were on today. They consistently found the floor no matter what the pass or set was to them. They finished the deal when the ball came to them.”

Independence also won the Elyria District last fall then claimed the school’s first regional title in advancing to the state Final Four for the first time.

The Blue Devils also won district titles in 2013 and 2014.

“The team winning another district title is amazing,” senior Lexi Prokopius said. “This puts us one step closer to our team goal.”

May, Prokopius, Kalli Screptock, Grace Smotek and Maddy Bilinovic stepped up their games to help the Blue Devils earn the sweep.

“I thought Kalli and Grace played really well on our pins, always finding a way to score,” May said of Independence’s outside hitters. “We are just going into regionals ready to compete once again; one set at a time and not taking any moment out there for granted.”

Screptock dropped the hammer throughout the match.

“Kalli Screptock did a great job of being our go-to in this game,” Bilinovic said. “Anytime we needed the ball to be put down we could count on Kalli. Hannah Wilson was also a huge asset in this game. I’m super proud of everyone’s performance.”

Bilinovic was reliable on defense and Wilson helped to dominate on offense.

“As always, Maddy had great ball control,” Prokopius said. “All the hitters came out for the game, but for being a freshman, Hannah Wilson always shows up come game time. Abby (Avila) and Katie (Taliaferro) also did a good job at spreading the ball around on offense.”

The Blue Devils open regional play on Thursday against Salem at Barberton High School. The match is scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m.

“It was great for us to advance in the playoffs,” Bilinovic said. “It’s always special winning another district title with this group of girls. We all work so hard and it feels great when it pays off. Our strategy moving forward is to stay focused on our goal. We can’t take anything for granted. We need to work hard all week at practice and fix a couple little things, but we will be ready by the time Thursday comes around.”

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The creator and publisher of OhioVarsity.com, Hare has covered high school sports in Northeast Ohio since 1997. He began as a correspondent for the Lake County News Herald, where he contributed until 2011, primarily covering high school football and wrestling. In 1999, Hare began writing for IrishIllustrated.com, a member of the Scout.com network of high school and college sports web sites. He focuses on covering Notre Dame football recruiting. OhioVarsity.com was created in 2004 and was a member of the Rivals.com network until 2012. The site's original purpose was to cover Ohio high school football and recruiting news but since has grown to cover all sports and to provide sports information services to high school athletic programs and individual teams. Hare attended Willoughby South High School through the middle of his senior year, then graduated from Berkshire High School in Burton in 1986. He played football, wrestled and was an all-Geauga county baseball player (1986). He lives in Chardon with his wife Paulette and their children.