BARBERTON—The Chagrin Valley Conference officially doesn’t sanction a championship game between the winners of the league’s two divisions. Unofficially, Independence holds the title of conference champion after defeating Berkshire, 3-0, in a Division III, Region 9 semifinal at Barberton High School on Thursday.
The Blue Devils won the Chagrin Division title during the regular season while the Badgers cruised to the Valley Division championship.
“It was a great opportunity for both teams to come together and be able to play at this level in the postseason,” said Independence coach Megan Osysko, who in five seasons at her alma mater has guided the Blue Devils to the regional tournament three times.
The Blue Devils advanced to their first regional final since 2007 when Osysko was a senior. They did it by defeating the Badgers, 25-15, 25-16, 25-11.
Independence last played in the regional tournament in 2014 when senior Maura Collins was a freshman.
“This gym is obviously very intimidating,” Collins said. “I remember my freshman year, it was a lot to handle with the crowd and the atmosphere, but I think our young team came out here and we really dominated here tonight and played well.”
Independence jumped out to a 7-3 lead in the first set before the Badgers rallied to take a 10-9 lead. The Blue Devils responded with an 8-0 run and never looked back.
They limited Badger standout McKenna Tucek, a Georgia Southern recruit who notched the 1,000th kill of her career last month, to just 16 kills in the match.
“We had to make some adjustments but our MO is playing defense and keeping the ball off the floor,” Osysko said. “We did a good job of that.”
It helped that Independence had so many offensive weapons to turn to.
“Whoever is hot, I just keeping going to them until they get stopped,” said setter Katie May. “We always play defense first. You can’t do anything if you don’t keep the ball up. That’s how you run offense after that, so you’ve got to get the ball up to start.”
Independence improved to 25-1 on the year while the Badgers close out the season with a 23-3 mark.
The Blue Devils, ranked No. 4 in the Division III state coaches’ poll, have not lost a set in the postseason and no team has scored more than 17 points in any single game.
Canton Central Catholic is 22-4.
Senor Erin Krupar, an Ashland University commitment, leads the Crusaders with 393 kills, 36 service aces and 47 blocks. She’s second on the team with 207 digs.
“We just have to take it point for point and one game at a time,” Osysko said of playing in the regional final with a chance to advance to the state Final Four for the first time in school history. “We just have to go in and play our game. The regional final is a big step for the program. It’s been 10 years since we’ve been back to this point and I’m happy to be coaching them to this next opportunity.”