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BARBERTON—Independence senior Madison Stepanik dominated the middle in leading the Blue Devils to a 3-0 win over Kirtland in a Division III regional semifinal on Thursday.

Stepanik posted nine kills and six blocks in helping the Blue Devils reach the regional final for the fourth straight season.

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“It was really exciting just to step up and just to be here, to make it here, was super exciting for our team,” Stepanik said. “I’m really glad we came out and won.”

The Blue Devils, who improved to 23-3, won in straight sets, 25-16, 25-20, 25-11.

Kirtland made several runs throughout the night but the Blue Devils responded to each and pulled away from the Hornets, who finished their season at 17-7.

“I think talking, definitely communication was key,” Stepanik said. “They have really strong outsides, so I think that definitely was crucial.”

Senior Grace Smotek also recorded nine kills to go along with eight digs and a pair of service aces. Macy McNamara led the Blue Devils with 20 digs and Grace Taliaferro and Sammy Barther both pitched in with seven kills.

Freshman Georgia DeJohn closed out an impressive postseason with nine kills and five digs to lead the Kirtland attack. Sophomore Natalie Glowe added seven kills and a team-high nine digs.

Independence will play Smithville in Saturday’s regional championship match at Barberton. The Smithies beat Crestview, 3-0.

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