LISBON-It was far from their sharpest game, but the Wellsville Tigers are advancing to the Division IV district volleyball semifinal and for now that's the most important thing.
After an impressive first games, the Tigers lapsed into some familiar mistakes but were nonetheless able to sweep past Southern 25-8, 25-12, 25-15 in a Divison IV sectional final Thursday at Lisbon High School.
"Overall, I'm pretty happy," McKinstry said. "What's happened for us most of the season is that we start out strong then get a little lackadaisical mentally and make careless mistakes in the middle of the game. We play really well in spots and then we just get a little bit inconsistent. It drives me crazy, but it is what it is and we're moving on."
Wellsville (20-4) was paced by an aggressive start from junior Jayla Martin, who finished with 19 points, 13 kills and eight aces. Also for the Tigers, Shayna Hamilton had eight points and 20 assists and Mystic Beatty had 10 points and 11 assists. Martin was especially dominant in the first set when the Tigers closed on a 16-2 run.
"We executed very well early," Martin said. "I knew where I wanted to go with the ball and the setters did a good job of setting me up."
"We saw right away that they didn't have anybody who could block Jayla so we went to her a lot early and she performed very well. I thought our passing and setting were pretty good early."
Southern was led by Natalie Utt with eight kills, 15 digs and one block, while Abby Smalley had two kills and seven digs.
The Indians saw the return of starters Brittany Webber and Brandi Hunt, who both missed significant time with ankle injuries. A big part of McKinstry's gameplan was to test the game-readiness of both players.
"We knew Webber and Hunt would play and we tried to go at them a little bit," he said. "They've practiced, but playing in a game is a little different. We went over that at practice and the kids executed that really well."
The Indians led early in the second game and midway through the third game, but in both cases the Tigers were able to use big runs to surge forward.
"We had a few rough spots there," McKinstry said. "We're still working on some things, we're still trying to have our setters get their shoulders turned correctly. We'll take a day off and get back to work Saturday and Monday."
The Tigers advance to play third-seeded Louisville St. Thomas Aquinas in the district semifinals at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday. Top-seeded Western Reserve and fourth-seeded Columbiana will meet in the 6 p.m. opener.
St. Thomas defeated defending district champion Jackson-Milton, 25-17, 22-25, 25-13, 25-21, in Thursday's nightcap.
Mary Kate McHugh had 13 points, 15 kills and 15 digs to lead the Knights. Aubrey Dempsey had 40 asssists and Julianne McGervey served five aces.
For Jackson-Milton, Erica Hughes totaled 35 kills. Sammi Oblinger had 19 points and Maddy Tomaino made 28 assists.
"The way we played tonight is not close to how we'll need to play to move on," Martin said.