CLARKS SUMMIT – Watching Jilann Baron take her warm-up swings Tuesday, one could sense the Nanticoke junior could be in store for a pretty special night.
But not even Baron imagined how big it was going to be.
The junior attacker was a dominating force in the District 2 Class 3A semifinals, finishing with a match-high 21 kills as Nanticoke advanced to Thursday’s title match with a 3-1 victory over Dallas at Clarks Summit Elementary School. Set scores were 25-17, 25-15, 18-25 and 25-17.
Nanticoke, the defending champ, faces off with top-seed Abington Heights, which eliminated Western Wayne in the other semifinal.
“Our coaches told me where to put the ball, and my teammates gave me all the confidence,” Baron said. “There were nerves because this was such a big game for us. I’ve never had this many kills in one game. We are just so excited to be back in the championship game.”
The spotlight belonged to Baron. And it was an array of shots. Cross-court spikes. Short lofts over a Dallas block. Pushing the ball to an open area in the back corner. And taking strategic swings from the back row.
Not too bad for someone who admittedly felt some nervous moments prior to the match.
“Jilann really gave us 200 percent tonight,” Nanticoke head coach Debbie Gavin said. “I love that she is a smart player on the court. She looks around, and knows exactly where she wants to put the ball. She anticipates so well on defense and offense. We couldn’t ask much more from her. She was amazing.”
Baron had five kills alone in the first set, one where the Trojans jumped out to a 10-3 lead on Meghan Duda’s serve.
The junior didn’t cool off much in the second game, either, killing seven shots. And Nanticoke needed each one. Down 9-4 early, Gavin’s group quickly rallied with seven straight points on Alyssa Lewis’ serve, and scored the last five points to win 25-15.
“District playoffs is always so much pressure,” Lewis said. “Having that district experience and having success there last season does help. It makes things a little easier. We had a good week of practice, so I think everyone had confidence coming into this match. We are just excited to play in the district final in front of our home crowd.”
Dallas, which was swept in straight sets by Nanticoke in the last week of the regular season, fought back.
The Mountaineers jumped out to a 17-9 lead, and used a 5-0 spurt on Caityln Pike’s serve to pull away for a 25-18 victory in the third set.
Yes, all the momentum of a huge rally sitting squarely on the Dallas’ sideline. But momentum that lasted approximately 90 seconds into the third set.
With Baron, Lewis and Kasey Radginski swinging, the rally was short-lived. With Megan Murphy hitting her spots behind the back line, the Trojans jumped out to a 8-3 lead and grew the advantage to 17-7 on Carly Reakes’ under-hand serve which gave the Mountaineer back line issues with the pass toward the front row.
“I’m proud of how our girls played all season, and how far we’ve come in just three months,” Dallas head coach Michael Shmakov said. “They played with a lot of heart and determination. They played to the best of their abilities. We had that heart, but at the end of the day, it was Nanticoke’s match to prevail.”
Nanticoke’s big three were too much for Dallas to overcome. Baron, Radginski and Lewis combined for 41 kills and 11 blocks. Mountaineer Gianna Musto was strong in the losing effort with a team-best 14 spikes.
“I’m happy to be in the district final again, and hopefully, we can pull it out on Thursday,” Gavin said.
Dunmore rallied to win the final three games and eliminate Meyers from the District 2 Class 2A playoffs with a semifinal victory. Game scores were 20-25, 25-16, 25-8, 25-21.
For Meyers, Chloe Delp posted 12 assists, seven kills, seven points, five aces and four blocks. Kimberly Carter had five kills.
Sam Domzalski paced Dunmore with 23 assists, 21 points and eight aces. Brooke Frable had 14 kills and two blocks.
Holy Redeemer 3,
The Royals advanced to the District 2 Class 2A title game with a 25-9, 25-4, 25-14 win over Lake-Lehman. They will play Dunmore at 5 p.m. Thursday at Wilkes University.
Skylar Osenkarski had 12 kills, three blocks and points for Redeemer.
Livia Moore (8 kills, 2 blocks), Samantha Carr (7 kills, 7 points), Sarah Liskowicz (5 kills, 2 blocks) and Julia Andrejko (6 kills, 1 block, 15 points) also contributed.
Nanticoke 3, Dallas 1
Dallas`17`15`25`17 – 1
Nanticoke`25`25`18`25 – 3
Dallas Leaders: Gianna Musto 14 kills; Shelby Carr 6 kills; Caitlyn Pike 21 assists, 1 kill, 1 ace.
Nanticoke Leaders: Jilann Baron 21 kills, 4 blocks, 1 ace; Alyssa Lewis 10 kills, 1 kill, 11 service points; Kasey Radginski 10 kills, 4 blocks; Carly Reakes 27 assists, 1 kill.