Ehlers sisters lead Indian River volleyball team to 3-1 upset over Smyrna

Indian River players celebrate after scoring the match-clinching point. Delaware State News/Ben Heck

DAGSBORO — It’s been a long time coming, but the Indian River High volleyball program was finally been able to get the monkey off its back.

Indian River defeated Smyrna High, 3-1, Tuesday night at home to move to 10-2. The victory avenges IR’s 2017 and ’18 Henlopen Conference championship losses to the Eagles.

In Jim Barnes’ five seasons as coach, the Indians had never beaten Smyrna, which had won at least the previous 14 matches, dating to 2007.

Over that span, the Eagles have won 42 sets to IR’s six, with 11 of those matches ending with a 3-0 sweep. Both the conference title game losses were three-set sweeps.

“When I first started coaching, we left the first match and I think we lost 25-8. One of the girls said, ‘oh, we used to get beat 25-2 or 25-3,’” said Barnes.

Indian River’s Siera Johnson scores a point while a pair of Smyrna players jump up to attempt to block it.

“So, we just kept clawing and clawing. This was our M.O.B. game — that’s what we called it — it’s our ‘monkey off the back.’ It’s a team that we have not been able to beat, I’m really happy with the girls.”

After dropping the first set, 25-20, IR grabbed three consecutive set wins of 25-21, 25-16 and 25-21 to grab the four-set victory.

“Our team is really excited and so happy,” said junior captain Raychel Ehlers. “It’s been our goal since my freshman year — I think some of the seniors a little longer than that — to beat Smyrna, so just knowing we beat them feels really good.”

The Indians have two upcoming road matches with ECHS@DSU and Woodbridge High before capping the schedule with a home match against Sussex Central High.

A win over Woodbridge Oct. 22 would cap IR’s Henlopen South schedule with a perfect 5-0 record.

The Eagles (8-4) have three road matches remaining, including two against division opponents.

If Smyrna wins the Henlopen North, the two teams could meet again in the conference championship match in a few weeks.

Smyrna’s Jennifer Sloven (12) registers a block against Indian River’s Raychel Ehlers.

Ehlers led the way with a team-high 25 kills and added 10 digs. Her sister, freshman Camryn Ehlers, recorded a team-high 27 assists. She also had eight digs.

Senior Jessica Amezcua put up a team-high 14 digs with three assists. Senior Siera Johnson had 11 kills and senior Marianni Chavez added 10 assists.

“I give credit to Raychel Ehlers, that girl just does things that make me very lucky to have her on our team. I’m very fortunate,” said Barnes. “But you can’t win by yourself, you have to have a surrounding cast to do it and you can see how passionate the girls are – they wanted to win this one so bad.”

IR grabbed the early 9-3 lead to open the first set, but Smyrna put together a six-point run to knot the set 9-9.

Smyrna’s Sofia Lerro sets up one of her teammates.

Trailing 19-18, the Eagles finished the set on a 7-1 run to clinch the win and take the early 1-0 lead.

In the second set, Indian River once again got off to a quick start and enjoyed an early lead. The Indians led for most of the set but was unable to pull away with a significant lead.

The Indians never led by more than four points and the Eagles battled back to tie the score on six different occasions before IR finally pulled away with the 25-21 win.

Indian River didn’t trail for a single second in the third or fourth sets, winning the third handily by a score of 25-16 to jump ahead two sets to one before using that momentum to clinch the match with a 25-21 fourth set win.

“Since Raychel was a freshman, I’ve gotten to go to the matches and watch them play Smyrna and see them not be able to beat them, so it feels great to come up and help them get a win. It feels really cool to be a part of it this year,” said Camryn Ehlers.

Reach staff writer Ben Heck at bheck@newszap.com

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