Independence sweeps Salem in regional semifinals

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BARBERTON—With a 3-0 sweep of Salem in Thursday’s regional semifinal, Independence advanced and will defend its regional title on Saturday against Applecreek Waynedale.

The Blue Devils defeated the Quakers, 25-12, 25-19, 25-13, to improve to 23-3 on the year. The win was the 13th straight for the Blue Devils, who haven’t lost a set since Sept. 29.

“When we control the ball, which we did most of the time, and when we pressure the other team and serve aggressively, we’re a pretty good team,” Independence coach Tony Messina said. “I think we can play with anybody when we do that and our strength of schedule shows that.”

The match featured two of the state’s top-ranked team.

Salem entered ranked No. 6 in the final Ohio High School Volleyball Coaches Association Division III state poll while Independence was No. 9.

The Blue Devils overwhelmed the Quakers from start to finish.

“We came into today and what I told the girls, we do have a lot of weapons and that’s why we play a 6-2. We need to pressure the other team,” Messina said. “We struggled against Oberlin (in the district championship match) with ball control and it almost hurt us. When we control the ball we have a lot of weapons and that’s the key.”

Salem, who made its second straight appearance in the regional semifinals, featured two potent hitters but Independence countered with a formidable wall the prevented the Quakers from finishing their attack.

“Sometimes the girls think they’re so big on the other side of the net that they’re going to go over the top of them,” Messina said of Independence’s blockers. “We talked to the girls and none of their attacks were over the block, so all we were looking for a touch. Just slow it down for us and they did a great job.”

Independence will play Waynedale, a 3-1 winner over Berkshire in the other regional semifinal at 2:00 p.m. on Saturday.

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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.