In a month’s time, the Monroeville volleyball team went from being handily swept by state-ranked Buckeye Central to on the verge of knocking the Buckettes in the district tournament on Tuesday.
The Eagles (18-7) couldn’t quite put away a late lead in Game 3, and fell to Buckeye Central in four games in a district semifinal at Willard High School, 25-13, 20-25, 25-22, 25-23.
On Sept. 16, Buckeye Central (23-1) — ranked No. 6 in the final state coaches poll — swept Monroeville, 25-18, 25-19, 25-20. B.C. will face No. 4 St. Paul (23-1) in Thursday’s district title match between the two longtime powers.
“I think we are two pretty even teams, and we both had a lot of momentum swings,” Monroeville coach Kendra Snook said after Tuesday’s loss. “Neither team could really put the other away, and it was a great match. A lot of good defense and a lot of long volleys … just real proud with how the kids played.”
The Eagles still looked like a team that was overmatched against B.C. in Game 1. The Buckettes quickly had them out of system and raced out to a 17-5 lead, and were never threatened in the 25-13 win.
In a back-and-forth Game 2, the two teams were tied at 13 until the Eagles scored five straight points to open up an 18-13 lead. Kirsten Stieber and Kelsie Palmer led a big attack at the net during the stretch for Monroeville.
B.C. climbed back to pull within 18-17, but the Eagles put away the match with seven of the last 10 points in a 25-20 win.
The key turning point in Tuesday’s match was in Game 3, however. The Eagles had seized the momentum from Game 2, and led 18-14 after Palmer had a huge kill.
But Buckeye standout Jenna Karl took control, and she led her team to nine of the next 11 points for a 23-20 lead — then the Buckettes held on for a 25-22 comeback win.
Down 2-1, the Eagles also trailed 12-7 early in Game 4. But eventually the Eagles stormed back again, surging ahead at 17-15 after Morganne Stanley and Maura Brown came up with key hits.
Kirsten Stieber gave Monroeville an 18-17 lead, but it was the last lead it held. Buckeye scored five straight points to go ahead 22-18, and were serving match point up 24-21.
However, the Eagles scrapped back with two points to cut the deficit to 24-23, but a long hit out of bounds ended the game and the season, 25-23.
Palmer led Monroeville with 11 kills, while Kirsten Stieber had nine kills and 33 digs and Adrian Barman added eight kills.
Kara Schafer was 13 for 13 serving and had 38 assists and 25 digs, and Stacia Stieber was 15 for 16 serving with three aces and 30 digs. Maddie Elmlinger added 24 digs and was 15 for 15 serving with an ace.
Monroeville graduates five seniors, including Schafer, Ashlyn Tommas, Stanley, Kirsten Stieber and Rachel Clingman.
“We only graduated one player from last year, so most of them were here — and both last year and this year’s team in my nine years have been the most improved by far from the beginning to the end,” Snook said. “We made even more progress this season than last, and we had very strong senior leadership that worked hard and bought in. I’m very proud of all of them.”