LaGRANGE — Buckeye’s volleyball team clinched its first-ever trip to the regionals by beating Bay last season.
The Rockets turned the tables this year— and pulled off the same feat at the same site.
No. 1 seed Bay had too much firepower for the second- seeded Bucks in the Keystone Division II District championship, advancing with a 26-24, 18-25, 25-16, 25-22 victory on Thursday night.
“This was a good match to be part of and a good match to watch,” said Rockets coach Tony Tahan, whose squad will face either Field or Salem at the Stow Regional. “Seeing two very good teams play this well at this stage of the tournament was a lot of fun.
“I thought Buckeye worked their tails off tonight, and they deserve a lot of credit. I’m just glad we weren’t the bridesmaids against them again.”
West Shore Conference champion Bay (23-2) amassed 15 more kills and 11 more errors than Patriot Athletic Conference kingpin Buckeye (21-3) in earning its initial district title.
Rockets hitters Marissa Radick (20 kills, 12 errors, 3 blocks), Claire Wilson (12 kills, 3 blocks) and Rachel Vick (12 kills, 4 blocks) wore down the Bucks with well-placed attacks, while setter Bridget Doughty (7 kills, 35 assists) kept them guessing at the net.
“They definitely found holes in our defense and put the ball where they wanted to,” Bucks senior Samantha Mueller said. “We fought as hard as we could as a team. We just dug too big of a hole to climb out of.”
Mueller, an outside hitter, turned in a superlative performance in her prep swansong. She amassed a career-postseason high 21 kills, a team-best 18 digs, a match-high five aces, three assists, and two blocks.
Senior middle hitter Lexi Wredberg (8 kills, match-high 7 blocks), and juniors Alexa Weiland (29 assists), Krystin Estes (8 kills, 13 digs), and Erin Leneghan (3 kills, 2 assists, 4 blocks, 2 aces) also traded salvos effectively, but Bay was simply too good to be stopped on this evening.
“This is just a great group of kids— all of them — so it’s tough to have our season end,” said Buckeye coach Brianne Indorf, whose team tied for the eighth-winningest campaign in Medina County history. “I thought Sam, Lexi and Krystin did exactly what Radick and Vick did at the net for Bay, and pushed them back and forth.
“But we just made too many errors when it mattered (including 13 blown serves) and couldn’t come back from all the deficits we had.”
In hindsight, the Bucks’ best opportunity to seize momentum came in the first game, when they led 16-11 and earned a game point at 24-23 after a Wredberg sideline laser.
The Rockets, though, would forge the 12th tie of the game then score the next two points to end the razor-tight opener on a Katie McFeeley kill.
Mueller ripped four straight kills midway through the second game and had five kills as Buckeye evened the match, but Bay stormed out to an 18-8 lead en route to taking Game 3.
The Rockets’ red glare continued at the start of Game 4 as they took leads of 7-0, 12-3 and 16-6. The gutsy Bucks, however, weren’t about to go down that easy.
Mueller hammered three kills in the row from well off the net to pull Buckeye within 21-19. She then took the serve and tied things at 21-21 with the help of a Leneghan kill.
“Krystin and Alexa fought back so hard for us,” Mueller said. “There were so many rallies (in Game 4) that were riding on them and they came through with digs and passes to keep it alive when we didn’t have a margin for error.”
Unfortunately for the county’s final hope in the OHSAA Tournament, Doughty took over at crunch time and ended the match with a tip and a block/kill.
Bay’s team rushed over to celebrate with its boisterous student section, while the Bucks were left to reflect on their incredible three-year run as PAC champs with seniors Mueller, Wredberg, Amelia Shaw and Lindsey Wuebold in the program.
“It hasn’t quite sunk in that it’s over,” Mueller said softly. “I came in this gym not ready for things to end, so this is hard. We have a great team, and I really believe Buckeye will be back here playing in this match again next year.”
Contact Brian Dulik at email@example.com.