Monday, June 17

    McNicholas ends Independence’s postseason run in state semifinals

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    SPRINGFIELD—Cincinnati McNicholas slammed the door on Independence’s postseason run.

    The Rockets defeated the Blue Devils in a Division II state semifinal at Wittenberg University on Saturday, 25-15, 25-12, 25-18.

    “They definitely had a height advantage and controlled the momentum for most of the game,” said Independence coach Lexi Prokopius. “When we got the momentum, we just weren’t able to hold it and we made too many mistakes, but I’m really proud of this second-year program for going to state both seasons; it’s a pretty cool experience.”

    Last spring, Independence’s first-year program reached the state final four where it fell to eventual state champion Columbus St. Francis DeSales.

    Independence hung with the Rockets early in the first set but the tide turned when Mark Pillar’s kill attempt was called out of bounds despite the audible sounds of it grazing the fingers of a McNicholas blocker.

    A 7-7 tie turned into a 13-3 McNicholas run, and the Blue Devils never recovered.

    The Rockets jumped out to a 15-5 lead in the second set and held off Independence in the third, the most competitive set of the match.

    Landon Jatsek led the Blue Devils with four kills while Alex Eisenmann, Mark Pillar, and Wyatt Snyder each recorded two.

    Sonny Sears led the team with eight digs, Jamie Panichi finished with seven, and Pillar had six. Jatsek and Wyatt Snyder both recorded two blocks, and Panichi led Independence with 11 assists.

    Independence graduates several key players who contributed to the Blue Devils’ two Final Four appearances.

    To make another run at the state tournament, the Blue Devils have to fill those big shoes, but also increase their skill in the fundamentals of the sport.

    “We definitely have to work on passing,” Prokopius said. “Once we do that, we’ll move on and focus on our offense, but passing is definitely the most important part of the game. That’s how we plan to bring in the new kids.”




    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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