KETTERING — When the season started, Utica head volleyball coach Laurie Londot didn’t dream that she had an elite eight team on her hands.
By the time the regular season ended, however, Utica fans were dreaming of a state run, but those dreams came to an abrupt end on Saturday. The Redskins’ long post-season run ended with a loss to the Miami East Vikings in straight sets, 25-19, 25-17, 28-26, at Kettering Fairmont High School in their OHSAA Division III Regional Final.
“When I saw our girls at the start of the season, I didn’t think they would come this far,” Londot said, “but this team really worked. They got better.”
The Redskins front line, a powerful force all year, was inconsistent throughout Saturday’s match. In the meantime, the back line appeared handcuffed at times in the face of superior serving by the Vikings.
In the opening set, with Carli Conard (five digs, one assist) serving, Utica rattled off five straight points to take an 11-10 lead. The Redskins took advantage of a kill by Alyson Londot (14 kills, 10 digs) off a set by teammate Brooke Maxwell (24 sets, 12 digs). The Redskins also benefitted from a pair of unforced errors by the Vikings. But things would quickly get away from them as it did time and again throughout the match.
With Kyndall Hellyer serving for the Vikings, teammate Jonni Parker blasted a pair of kills and helped put their team back on top, 15-11. Later in the set, Parker landed three aces in a row as her top spin jump serve dipped suddenly, keeping the Redskins off balance. When she was finished, the Vikings had stretched their lead to 23-14. A kill by Alyson Londot and a block by Conard, followed by a pair of aces from Emily Londot (14 kills, four aces, three digs), were not enough to bring the Redskins back in the first set.
In the second set, it was the Vikings’ Kennedy Glover serving with scoring help from Parker, Carly Gump and Reagan Morrett to win.
The final set was a dogfight. Utica finally figured out Parker’s serve. With the score tied at 19, Alyson Londot scored to make it 20-19. Utica’s Alexa Smitherman (one dig) threw up a scoring block to stretch the lead to 21-19. Two more Alyson Londot scores and a Vikings’ unforced error put Utica on the brink of winning the third set, 24-19. That was when their game unraveled.
Lydia Conley scored twice for the Vikings with Gump serving, bringing them all the way back to a tie at 24. Still tied at 25, Alyson Londot scored, but Parker and Morrett struck back for the Vikings with teammate Kaitlyn Mack serving, to complete the sweep.
Elizabeth Pritchard had an assist and a dig for Utica. Tatum Minton had an assist. Avery Ellis had three digs and Rachel Orr had four digs.
“We’re losing some great people this year,” coach Londot said. “I’m just glad that our freshmen and sophomores have had a chance to see this. Now, they really understand what it takes to get here. ”