SULLIVAN TWP. — The golden age of Buckeye volleyball keeps shining even brighter.
Samantha Mueller had 15 kills and Alexa Weiland dished out 29 assists Tuesday as the Bucks locked up their third straight Patriot Athletic Conference championship by beating Black River 25-21, 25-21, 25-13.
Buckeye (19-1, 12-0) is just the third team in Medina County history to win three outright league crowns in a row, joining the 1988-1990 Highland Hornets and the 2007-2009 Cloverleaf Colts.
“These girls have played with such guts and heart all season long, I didn’t expect anything different from them tonight,” said Bucks coach Brianne Indorf, whose squad is ranked 11th in the state Division II coaches’ poll.
“It’s been really thrilling to watch them achieve their goals as a team — but we’re not done yet, not by a longshot.”
The Bucks conclude their regular season Thursday at Keystone, where they can complete an undefeated campaign in the PAC. A victory over the Wildcats also would make Buckeye the 18th county team all-time to win 20 matches in a season.
“Now that we’ve gotten past Black River, we’ve got one more obstacle in our way in Keystone,” said Mueller, a senior outside hitter and three-time league champ. “Going 13-0 in the PAC would feel so good. That’s what all of us want next.”
The Pirates (11-10, 5-8) came out firing on their senior night, aiming to extend a seven-match home winning streak that was their longest in more than two decades.
Senior Cassondra Zumack and sophomore Megan Mey ripped a series of kills to thrill the crowd as Black River seized a 16-12 lead in the first game.
Buckeye junior Krystin Estes, however, immediately swung momentum the other way by rifling off six straight service points. The Bucks ended the opener on a 13-6 run and never looked back the rest of the match.
Senior middle hitter Lexi Wredberg had 11 kills and five blocks for Buckeye, which also got eight kills from Estes, 18 digs from senior Amelia Shaw, and 17 digs from Mueller.
“Give Black River a lot of credit for playing as well they did,” Mueller said. “We knew they’d come out all fired up, and they gave us a real scare, especially in the first game. I’ve never seen them play better than they did tonight.”
Zumack paced the Pirates with a team-high 12 kills, a match-best six blocks and six digs, but said her lasting memory will be playing in the Den for the final time with her fellow seniors.
“Me, Kelly (Hozan), Holly (Jaycox) and Megan (Holly) have been best friends since seventh grade when we started every match together on the middle school team,” she said. “It’s been so much fun playing together all these years, and we’ve got such a great team right now, I hope we can keep going for a while in the tournament.”
Jaycox made 16-of-16 serves and had eight assists for Black River, which also got seven kills from Mey, 11 assists and five kills from sophomore Maleah Ferriman, two kills and two rejections from Hozan, and five digs from Holly.
The Pirates are already assured of their best season in 10 years, but can finish with a winning record by beating North Ridgeville Lake Ridge Academy on Thursday.
“This season has been huge for our program in terms of wins, but one more victory would put us over the top,” Black River coach Ashley Auvil said. “The caliber of play we’ve seen all year has proved every person wrong who said that our program was a joke.
“I’m telling you, there is nothing that can stop these girls now, which is why I’m so excited about going into (the Elyria Division III Sectional). We’re coming out there with a vengeance next week.”
Contact Brian Dulik at firstname.lastname@example.org.