INDEPENDENCE—Independence’s historic first season of volleyball was extended on Saturday after the Blue Devils defeated Chardon in the Division II, Region 7 championship match, 3-1.
With the win, Independence advanced to the state Final Four to be played at Wittenberg University on Saturday and Sunday.
“I have no words,” said Independence coach Lexi Prokopius. “I’m just shaking and my adrenaline is going. I can’t believe it. I’m so proud of this team.”
Prokopius knows a thing or two about playing in regional championship matches. As a senior in 2019, she helped lead the Blue Devils’ girls’ team to its first regional title and the first of our straight appearances in the Division III state championship match.
“This one is a lot better,” she said. “I worked with these boys all season, and this shows that my hard work and their hard work paid off.”
The fourth-seeded Hilltoppers took the early momentum with a 25-23 win in the first set, but the fifth-seeded Blue Devils found their rhythm early in the second and led at one point, 20-10, and went on to tie the match with a 25-18 win.
“I told them that they are way better, and they needed to figure it out,” Prokopius said of her strategy after the first set. “Sometimes when they would get into those holes, they looked defeated, and I said, ‘Guys, we have either the lead or we are the better team, so we need to act like it.”
A closely contested third set resulted in Independence pulling out a 25-23 win, and then the Blue Devils cruised to a 25-16 win in the fourth to end the match on a Sonny Sears service ace.
“The key was shutting their best hitters down, getting a pass, and Landon (Jatsek), who rocked this game,” Prokopius said. “I always reiterate to the boys that it’s a team sport, so whatever you can put on the floor, just bring it. Everybody did what they needed to do.”
Jatsek recorded double-digit kills in the match.
“Soccer, basketball, someone has to take over, but in volleyball, the entire team has to work together to take over,” Jatsek said. “We came in and we played how we should play as a team.”
Independence advanced to play Columbus St. Francis DeSales in the state semifinals on Saturday at 7:00 p.m.
Photos by Macey McGhee