Sunday, February 25

    Independence bounces back with big win over VASJ to win sectional championship

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    A disappointing loss in the their regular season finale didn’t sit well with the Independence Blue Devils and they responded with a convincing three-set win over visiting Villa Angela-St. Joseph in a Division III sectional championship game on Thursday.

    The Blue Devils won the match 25-14, 25-9, 25-15 in clinching their 13th straight sectional title.

    “It was not how we pictured to end our regular season, but the beauty of the postseason is that everyone enters it with a clean slate,” said Independence senior Emily Richards. “We are all even, we are all 0-0 going into these postseason matches. Today was our chance to show everyone what Independence volleyball looks like.”

    Lutheran West’s 3-2 win over Independence on Oct. 12 snapped the Blue Devils’ 137-match conference win streak, the fourth longest in OHSAA history.

    After the loss, the Blue Devils focused on the other goals they set for themselves.

    “We worked hard this week in practice,” Richards said. “We have our goals in mind and that’s what fueled us tonight. We communicated better on the court and stayed poised even when unexpected stuff came over the net.”

    Anna Waski played a solid match at the net for the Blue Devils disrupting VASJ’s attack and hammering home several balls. Anna Jirmasek also stepped up for the Blue Devils.

    “(Anna) is so huge for us at the net with blocks and kills,” Richards said. “She has been a pleasure to watch blossom this season. Anna Jirmasek also played a solid game all-around. She is getting more comfortable in the front row and is taking chances with her attacks. She is finding the court really well.”

    For Richards, Independence’s lone senior, each match could be her last.

    That’s something she’s aware of, but she isn’t letting it affect her performance.

    “I have a great team behind me,” she said. “I’ve played with most of them for a few seasons now so I am just focusing in on the game and trusting the players around me. Mentally, you have to turn that pressure into the mindset that no one will outwork me so that this won’t be my last game.”

    The third-seeded Blue Devils will play No. 12 Norwayne in a district semifinal at Elyria High School on Oct. 25.


    Steve Hare
    Steve Hare
    The creator and publisher of, 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, a member of the network of high school and college sports web sites. He focuses on covering Notre Dame football recruiting. was created in 2004 and was a member of the 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.


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