But once the state-ranked Monroeville volleyball team settled in, Seneca East had no answers in Monday’s Division IV district semifinal at the Willard Middle School.
The Eagles pulled away late for a 25-18 win in Game 1, then had no trouble controlling wins of 25-17 and 25-14 to complete the sweep and advance to Thursday’s 6 p.m. championship match vs. No. 7 St. Paul (22-2) for a spot in next week’s regional semifinals.
The Tigers (18-7) came into the match as sectional champions for the first time in a decade after finishing second in the Northern 10 Conference to state power Buckeye Central.
“I think we came out a little flat, but saying that, I also think Seneca East is a very good team that came in ready to play,” Monroeville coach Kendra Snook said. “I don’t know if we necessarily did at the start, but then I thought we did a nice job of settling in and picking it up — and really taking over the match and controlling the momentum from there on out.”
The Eagles jumped out to an 8-3 lead in Game 1, but that margin had been trimmed to three points on three different occasions, the last being when it was a 19-16 lead. But a big momentum-swinging kill from Kelsie Palmer allowed the Eagles to settle in, as Graisyn Yoder followed her with an ace serving for a 21-16 lead.
Monroeville cruised from there, with hits by Maura Brown and Reece Kluding putting the finishing touches on the 25-18 win.
In Game 2, the Eagles were as balanced as ever at the net. Whether it was Kylee Brooks, Palmer, Yoder or Brown — Monroeville was strong at the net. The Eagles jumped out to an 8-1 lead from the start, and that margin never slipped below seven points the rest of the way in the 25-17 win.
The final game played out in similar fashion. The Eagles were up 14-4 on a thunderous kill from Brooks, and it was textbook from there in a 25-14 win.
Brown and Palmer both finished with nine kills and two blocks, while Yoder and Kluding each had five kills, and Brown had four.
“That’s a huge thing for us right now,” Snook said. “You don’t know who is going to have all the kills among four or five players, and that is a huge advantage this year. (Setter) Camryn (Hedrick) is doing a nice job of mixing it up, and even defensively, we have the depth if someone is struggling to be able to put someone else in.
“So they are a complete team right now, and we really stress the team over the individual,” she added. “They are all about whoever and whatever we need to do to win.”
Hedrick finished with 29 assists, with Adrian Barman leading the defense with 17 digs. Yoder added 11 digs, and Brooks was 15 for 15 serving with four aces.
Snook talked about Thursday’s title game matchup against the Lady Flyers. The two Firelands Conference rivals have played six previous times for the district title in an 10-year span. The Eagles lead that series, 4-2.
“People are talking about a lot of the western teams for getting to a regional, but I strongly believe this is the toughest district in Division IV to get out of,” she said. “After Thursday, you will see two teams ranked among the top 12 not in the remaining 16 teams in the state. It will be a tough battle either way. I told the kids they are going to have to play a lot better on Thursday.
“I think all three teams are hungry and come from good programs, and all three teams have been there — so there’s no real advantage as far as that kind of stuff,” she added. “It will be a fun atmosphere, it always is. I expect this place to be crowded, and it’s going to be a lot of fun. It should be some very good volleyball.”