Monroeville was within a point of New Bremen in Game 5 of a great match.
Unfortunately for the Eagles, a net violation ended the game, match, and season for No. 4 Monroeville as No. 2 New Bremen escaped with a 22-25, 25-20, 25-23, 19-25, 15-13 win in a Division IV state semifinal on Friday at the Nutter Center on the campus of Wright State University.
"I told them I know it sucks, but I am proud of everything they have accomplished," Monroeville coach Kendra Snook said. "This senior group not only got here once, but got here twice and gave it all that they had both times."
The Eagles finish at 26-2, winning a regional championship for the second straight season.
"There is nothing to be ashamed about," Snook said. "There is nothing I could tell them to make it feel better, because it feels just as bad for me."
Before Friday, Monroeville was 24-0 this season when winning the opening game.
"We know both teams had almost every single one of our attackers back," New Bremen coach Diana Kramer said. "Everything was similar — a lot of senior leadership from both teams. We knew it was going to be a battle."
It is the second straight season that the Eagles fall victim to New Bremen in the state semifinals. Last year, the Cardinals took a 19-25, 23-25, 25-19, 25-20, 15-10 win.
"Obviously, it is two pretty equal teams," Snook said. "I said that before the match and I think Diana would probably agree with me that we are almost mirror images of each other."
The Eagles led most of Game 5 before New Bremen (27-1) took over late. Early on, a kill by Kylee Brooks gave Monroeville a 4-2 lead, but the two teams exchanged points until the Eagles took a 10-8 lead on a kill by Kelsie Palmer.
That is when the Cardinals kicked it into another gear. A serving error by Monroeville was followed by consecutive kills by Taylor Paul. After an Eagles' timeout, Brooks tied the game at 11, but back-to-back kills by Macy Puthoff and Ashton Heitkamp drew another timeout.
A net violation on New Bremen brought Monroeville within a point again, but Puthoff's 11th kill gave the Cardinals two match points. Brooks tallied her match-leading fifth block, but the net violation ended the two-hour long match.
"This group of kids are not quitters," Snook said. "No one from Monroeville is a quitter. We have been down here three years and have not won a dang match. We have gone five every freaking time that we have been down here and I think that says something about these kids."
After an uncharacteristic 15 serving errors in the first four games, New Bremen did not have any in the fifth game.
"We are coming at you with our first serve," Kramer said. "With that being said, there becomes a fine line where you have to make a play and keep the ball inbounds. We are not going to go away from coming out and being aggressive."
The Eagles trailed 2-1 after three games, but played superb volleyball in Game 4. New Bremen only had one lead and that was 1-0 after a service ace. Monroeville had an 8-6 lead, but slowly built on it and used five straight points to expand the margin to 15-7.
The lead was 17-9 later when New Bremen charged. The Cardinals used a 8-2 run to get within two points and force Snook into a timeout, but Monroeville responded. The Eagles won five straight points for a 24-17 lead and tied the match on a New Bremen error.
"When you get to this moment, everything you did in the past — while it prepares you — you can throw it out," Kramer said. "Each team deserved to win tonight. Monroeville is a great team with a great coach."
Game 1 saw a lot of back-and-forth action. Monroeville led, 7-5 after a kill by Reece Kluding, but the Cardinals bounced back to win 10 of the next 12 points for a 15-9 advantage.
The Eagles did not go quietly though. Brooks tallied kills on consecutive points and with Palmer serving, Monroeville battled back to tie the game at 15. The teams exchanged points until the Eagles won three points in a row - including two more kills by Brooks. Leading 23-22, Graisyn Yoder blasted a kill and Maura Brown and Brooks combined on a block to give Monroeville the early lead.
"We were not playing necessarily well as a team in Game 1, but we won that game," Snook said.
New Bremen rebounded strong in the next two games. The Cardinals never trailed in Game 2, although the Eagles were close behind at 12-10 before New Bremen took control. The Cardinals opened a five-point lead four different times and knotted the match when Monroeville committed an error.
"My biggest concern was their serve," Snook said. "I have seen them serve teams off the floor numerous times. They had eight aces, but we had six. I thought we passed really well, which gave our hitters that opportunity to be able to score."
With the match now a best-out-of-3, more back-and-forth action built the tension in the arena during Game 3. The Eagles consistently led for most of the game and built a two-point lead on nine different occasions. The margin finally blossomed to three points after back-to-back kills from Palmer for a 19-16 advantage.
After a New Bremen timeout, the Cardinals took control of the game with a 7-1 run. Monroeville battled back and tied the game at 23, but a kill by Paul and a hitting error pushed New Bremen ahead, 2-1.
Paul paced the Cardinals with 23 kills.
"Taylor Paul was a monster tonight," Snook said. "We could not stop her from both sides of the court. We were trying to adjust things, but she is a very good player and she kept making those adjustments."
Brooks topped Monroeville with 19 kills including eight in the first game.
"Kylee was good for us the whole match," Snook said. "Kylee is huge for us. She came out on fire. She is a huge offensive leader for us."
Palmer added 13 kills while Camryn Hedrick had 46 assists. Hedrick finishes with 990 assists this season, giving her 2,084 assists in two full varsity seasons.
"Cam is a great kid and she is a fighter," Snook said. "It is always hard to make the last error. She was emotional and apologizing for being under the net. She did everything she could do to save the ball. I wish I had 100 of her."
Adrian Barman led the Eagles with 19 digs. Yoder had 15 digs and seven kills while Palmer added 14 digs and Lydia Landoll had 11 digs and four aces.
"Kelsie did have a slow start offensively," Snook said. "She helped us in different parts of the game, which makes her a true athlete and teammate. She served really well in Game 1 and 2."
Monroeville says farewell to seven seniors - Palmer, Brown, Barman, Hedrick, Mirena Miller, Kortney Scheid, and Hannah Stieber.
"Both teams had some big guns and both teams spread it out," Snook said. "Both teams serve aggressive and both teams got their hands on a lot of balls blocking. If we play 10 times, maybe it's 5-5. So far we have played twice and it is 0-2. I would say it is just two even teams playing and they made two less errors than we did."