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‘Un-four-gettable’ finish as Alter Knights win state volleyball title

COLUMBUS — Two sets apiece, a state title on the line, the battle was intense for the top-ranked Division II boys volleyball teams — Alter and Hoban.

The Knights, after winning the first two sets, had dropped two straight and it was anybody’s match. It was time for a change.

“We went from a ‘don’t lose’ mindset to ‘let’s win,’” Alter senior middle blocker Andrew Bowman said.

It worked as Alter defeated Hoban, 28-26, 25-21, 15-25, 20-25, 15-4, to earn a fourth consecutive state title at the Ohio High School Boys Volleyball Association state championship at Capital University. It’s the sixth boys state volleyball title for the Knights since 2011.

The state finalists traded points early with neither team posting more than a two-point lead. Solid blocking and strong serves helped the Knights pull ahead, 16-12, but Hoban closed the gap and it was even at 22-22. Both teams got in some extra swings as 25 points was not enough to decide the contest. Alter junior outside hitter Andrew Rose pounded in the final two kills for the Knights to take the set.

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The marathon first set set the tone for the match.

“We knew it was going to be a battle,” Alter coach Craig Erford said. “We knew they were a balanced, senior-heavy team.”

The Knights built on their momentum early in the second set, jumping out to a 7-2 lead, but Hoban wasn’t ranked No. 1 in the state for nothing and Alter soon trailed 11-10. But the tournament-tested Knights answered with a balanced attack. An ace by libero Evan Hartman gave the Knights a 16-15 lead. Hoban evened it, but never wrestled away the lead.

But Hoban made quick work of a must-win third set, jumping out to a 16-6 lead. Alter was never able to close the gap. And while the Knights stole the momentum early in the fourth set — going up 7-3 — it was short-lived as Hoban took the lead 16-15. Alter was able to tie it up, but the Knights never regained the lead.

“I’m not sure if we got a little too confident, up two sets, or fatigue was setting in,” Erford said. “We weren’t moving our feet very well and Hoban was playing well. Their serving got a lot better.”

Erford’s advice to his Knights before the final set was simple — control their side of the court.

“We talked about how we need to play for each other,” he said. “We are family and we needed to be playing for our brothers.”

Alter sped to a 6-2 lead and never looked back, much to the relief of Bowman.

“When you’ve won three in a row, you don’t want to be ‘that’ class, the one that doesn’t win,” he said, smiling.

Bowman led the Knights with eight blocks while Rose tallied a team-high 23 kills. Setter Josh Kabel posted 44 assists and Hartman finished with 27 digs.

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