A hard-fought 3-1 victory over Elyria Catholic netted Oberlin its first sectional championship title since high school volleyball went to rally scoring in 2004.
Coach Casey Marcelo’s second-seeded team won 25-21, 31-29, 17-25, 25-23 after losing to the Panthers earlier in the season.
The Phoenix jumped ahead early but several service miscues allowed Elyria Catholic to keep it close before the blue and red closed it out on a Panthers error.
The second set was pivotal as the Phoenix again built up a lead, extending it as far as 19-12, before EC closed the gap and knotted the set at 24-all. Each team served three times before Oberlin finally secured the 31-29 win to go up 2-0.
The Panthers pulled out to a 4-0 lead in the third set, then boomed ahead to 12-4. Marcelo called a couple of time-outs to strategize but Oberlin lost 25-17.
Buckling down in the fourth set, the teams fought to the edge and Oberlin came out on top.
The team’s attack was led by senior Karissa Rankin, who amassed 16 of the team’s 39 kills on the afternoon. She got help from Nya Grady-Norman, Kaylianna Barbee, and Marianna Froust, each with five of their own.
Senior Lauren Sands recorded all 39 of the team’s assists.
At the net, Sands, Barbee, Grady-Norman, and Rankin all shared in the block party that the Phoenix laid on the Panthers all afternoon.
From the service line, again Rankin led the squad — this time with four of the team’s 11 aces.
The win upped the Phoenix record to 16-7 (11-5 in the Patriot Athletic Conference), a new high water mark for victories within the conference and the most for an Oberlin squad since program-founding coach Sue Brady led her 1976 squad to 17 wins and a berth in the AA regional.