ONTARIO, Ohio — One match away from the state semifinals, the Central Catholic volleyball team met a challenge it couldn't overcome.
In a season with many peaks and valleys, including nine regular-season losses and a resilient postseason run, the end came at the hands of state No. 1 Parma Padua Franciscan in a Division II regional final Saturday.
The Irish (17-10) fell 25-13, 25-7, 25-15 in their first regional final appearance since 2007, when Central won a state championship.
"We had a pretty up and down season," senior Sierra Sedlak said. "We worked really hard and sometimes it just wasn't there. Overall, I think we just worked really hard and overcame all of our losses."
Central Catholic never led in any game and ran up against an opponent that was focused from the beginning of the match.
"Padua is a great team," senior Maty Lehman said. "They were just swinging hard and picking up balls that we weren't expecting them to pick up.
"They just came out more ready than we were."
In the first game, Central Catholic tied the score twice early on, but the Bruins gained a 19-13 advantage and went on to win the last seven points to take the 1-0 lead.
The second game was a disaster for Central Catholic, as they trailed 9-1 early on and managed only seven points.
The best run the Irish made came in the third game, when they tied the score at eight, but Padua Franciscan won the next three points and closed out the match in convincing fashion.
"It's a tough game to win when you can never control the tempo," Irish coach Jenn Bronikowski said.
"We couldn't get the ball to do what we wanted to do."
For the second straight game, junior Kristin Murrell led the team in kills, freshman Olivia Morrison led the way in digs and Lehman paced the team in assists.
Central hadn't lost a game in any postseason match, topping Woodward, Eastwood, Tiffin Columbian, and Celina along the way to the regional final. On Saturday, Padua Franciscan was just too talented.
"They are a very quality opponent," Bronikowski said.
"They don't let much drop and they are aggressive the entire match."
This year was one to remember for Bronikowski and the Irish girls. Despite what was at times a tough regular season, The Irish were able to come together and play their best volleyball in the tournament.
"Their team chemistry was fantastic and untouchable," Bronikowski said. "I've been coaching for a few years and this team by far has the most remarkable team chemistry. Today it's tough because you never want it to end. But generally speaking, it has been a great season.
"They are a remarkable group of girls and I’ve enjoyed every minute with them."
Contact Brian Buckey at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6110.