LaGRANGE— Here we go again.
The volleyball rematch that Buckeye and Bay Village Bay have been waiting for all season is finally upon us.
Tonight at 7, the second-seeded Bucks (21-2) square off with the top-seeded Rockets (22-2) in the Keystone Division II District championship.
The winner earns a spot in the state Sweet 16 and a trip to the Stow Regional — just as it did one year ago when Buckeye claimed its first-ever district crown over Bay.
“Last year’s Bay match has been the driving force for our team all season,” Bucks coach Brianne Indorf said. “We are excited to be playing in the district finals again, as it has been a goal for this team from the beginning.
“It’s even more exciting to be back in the same gym, against the same team, with the same intensity and hype as last year.”
In the 2009 district final, No. 2 seed Buckeye rallied from an 11-3 deficit in the fifth and final game to beat the top-seeded Rockets, 25-15, 18-25, 23-25, 25-20, 16-14.
It was a match — and an unprecedented postseason comeback — that no one in attendance will ever forget. The Bucks also trailed 7-1, 9-2 and 13-7 before Medina County MVP Marah Farage served seven straight points.
Buckeye’s big gun at the net, though, was junior Samantha Mueller, who scored her team’s final three points on kills. She finished with a career-high 18, foreshadowing her emergence as a premier D-II outside hitter this fall.
“It is such an incredible memory to think about last year’s win, but we have to focus on what this current team’s legacy will be,” Indorf said. “They want to prove that they are every bit as good as that team, if not better, with their drive and their willingness to fight adversity.”
Standing between the Bucks and back-to-back regional appearances is an even better foe than one year ago. Bay is ranked 11th in the state (Buckeye is 14th) and didn’t lose a game in the West Shore Conference, winning 63-of-70 on the campaign.
The Rockets’ only losses were to Revere and Brecksville, while Buckeye’s came against Elyria and Keystone.
Bay also boasts tons of big-match experience with hitters Rachel Vick, Marissa Radick, Claire Wilson and Jenny Osborne all back, along with senior setter Bridget Doughty.
“They’re the same kids we had to prepare for last year, with the exception of Vick’s older sister (Sara), who was replaced by a tall freshman in (6-foot-1 Bridget) Durham, who shouldn’t be overlooked, either,” Indorf said. “We have to put up an aggressive block against them, and we have to be able to read outside of the block on defense.”
The Bucks, however, boast a very different squad from 2009. Mueller is now the featured hitter, while junior Alexa Weiland hasn’t missed a beat in taking over full-time setter duties.
Libero Amelia Shaw has returned from reconstructive knee surgery, while hitters Lexi Wredberg, Krystin Estes, Gabrielle Beck and Erin Leneghan are playing much, much bigger offensive roles.
That combination proved deadly to the opposition as Buckeye won its third straight Patriot Athletic Conference championship and surpassed 20 wins for the second year in a row.
Indorf acknowledges that Bay will be out for revenge, but she adds that the Bucks have powerful motivation on their side, as well. If they win, they will go down as one of the finest teams in Medina County history.
“We are more than one, two or three key players that teams have to key on, which is what makes this team so fun to coach,” Indorf said. “It is going to take a total team effort to be district champs again.
“But this team will be very hard to stop if we continue to play with the intensity and heart we’ve shown all season. These girls play every point from 1-25 like we have nothing to lose and everything to gain.”
Contact Brian Dulik at firstname.lastname@example.org.