The Waterford High volleyball team has, for all intense and purposes, cruised through the postseason so far.
The Lady Wildcats have completed sweeps over Symmes Valley, South Webster and, most recently, Portsmouth Notre Dame en route to winning the third district championship in school history.
In fact, Waterford hasn't lost a set since Sept. 19 when it defeated rival Eastern in five games.
JORDAN HOLLAND The Marietta Times
Waterford’s Alyssa Miller (2) sets the ball as Dani Drayer (22) runs in for the spike in a sectional final match against Symmes Valley at the Harry Cooper Annex on Oct. 17. The Wildcats are scheduled to face Newark Catholic in a regional semifinal at Lancaster High tonight.
JORDAN HOLLAND The Marietta Times
Waterford’s Taylor Hilverding (14) spikes the ball as a Symmes Valley player, right, tries to block it in a sectional final match at the Harry Cooper Annex on Oct. 17. The Wildcats are scheduled to face Newark Catholic in a regional semifinal at Lancaster High tonight.
While winning a Division IV district title is a big step for the Wildcats, after losing there the past two seasons, they likely have bigger goals in mind.
With all the talent that Waterford possesses, the sky is the limit. Maybe even a trip to state could be in the cards.
"They just want it so bad," said Waterford head coach Jandy Drayer.
For now, however, Waterford has its sights set on the next task at hand - Newark Catholic.
Tonight's match, which pits 13th-ranked Newark Catholic (22-4) against 16th-ranked Waterford (23-2), is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. at Lancaster High School. The winner advances to play in the regional championship with a state berth on the line.
As hot as the Wildcats are right now, the Green Wave may be coming in hotter, as they dispatched Madison Christian in three sets in their district final match Saturday. Like Waterford, Newark Catholic has not dropped a set in the postseason, with its closest game being a 25-16 win over Berne Union in a district semifinal match.
The strength of NC will be its size, but Drayer believes her team will be ready for it.
"They have two big middles ... and a really good outside hitter," she explained. "South Webster and Eastern had big hitters, so it's not something we haven't seen."
Drayer pointed to outside hitter Taylor Daignault as Newark Catholic's biggest threat.
"She's a pretty good jumper," Drayer said of Daignault. "She gets above the block and can really hit the ball."
The Wildcats are hoping to limit Daignault's opportunities by keeping the ball out of her hands.
"We'll try to serve it somewhere so they can't get a good pass to her," Drayer said.
"I'm expecting it to be a battle."
It will be up to Waterford hitters Taylor Hilverding, Dani Drayer, Laura Hill, Maddy Sury and Haley McCutcheon to try and contest the hits that Daignault does get.
Offensively, Waterford expects to go with an up-tempo style of play.
"We want to keep our offense running quickly so they can't react," Coach Drayer said. "If we can do that, it should give us the advantage."
Along with Waterford's talented hitters, another strength has been setter Alyssa Miller. Miller assisted on 35 of Waterford's 44 kills in the sweep of Notre Dame. The senior has the range to get to most balls and is able to set her hitters up nicely on attacks.
Also look for senior Katie Semon to get significant floor time. A libero, Semon was a key contributor in both matches against Eastern this season. Though small, she has the ability to return powerful spikes from bigger hitters and get off nice passes to Miller. That should come in handy against the Green Wave.
Newark Catholic uses the duo of Kelly Clapper and Megan Stanton at setter. Jill Blacksten and Becca Kapavik occupy the middle, while Maddie Wirth and Jenna Bourne join Daignault on the outside. Christine Joyce and Marisa Peddicord are other players to watch for NC.
The Newark Catholic volleyball program has claimed eight state championships in school history, with the most recent coming in 2004. The Green Wave is regarded as somewhat of a volleyball powerhouse, but don't expect that to phase the Lady 'Cats.
"They've all played enough club ball and enough games together that it won't bother them," Drayer said of her team.
"We've played some pretty doggone good teams. The biggest thing for us will be to stay focused and play our game."
NOTES: Tonight will mark the third time in school history that Waterford has played in regional action. The Wildcats lost to Shekinah Christian in the regional final in 1995 and to Tuscarawas Central Catholic in the regional semi in 2010. ... Newark Catholic has lost in the regional semifinal match each of the past two seasons. ... Waterford's Hilverding, Dani Drayer and Regan Porter each played on the Jerry Close-coached Waterford girls basketball team that lost to Newark Catholic in the regional semifinal game last season. ... Waterford won the Tri-Valley Conference - Hocking Division by posting a perfect 16-0 record this year.