St. Ursula's Sydney Antonio (6), right, vents her enthusiasm as she celebrates with Sarah Florian (11) and Kelsey Hills (2) following the Arrows' City League playoff victory over Clay.
St. Ursula Academy got a challenge from the upset-minded Clay Eagles in last night's City League volleyball playoff championship, but the Arrows held firm at the end in a 15-3, 15-13 victory in the Waite Field House.
SUA (19-1), ranked No. 2 in Ohio and seventh nationally, thus became the first CL school to win four straight league volleyball titles, a run that includes 46 straight wins in CL regular-season and playoff matches.
“It's a tribute to the program and the kids in it,” SUA coach John Buck said. “There's so many things that go into having a streak and a run like this. Not one person or one coach. It's a group effort.”
One player who was part of all the league wins and playoff titles for St. Ursula is senior star Sarah Florian, who capped her CL legacy with a match-high eight kills.
“It's kind of cool because it's never been done before,” Florian said. “It's exciting and I feel like I accomplished something. I think we've left a mark on the school, something for future generations to live up to.”
SUA breezed through the first game, taking a 10-0 lead before closing things on a service ace by junior Alison Mugler.
But Clay (14-7), which rebuilt after graduating all but two starters from 2002, took a big step in their first City playoff and in this match as well.
On Tuesday, the Eagles upset No. 2-seed Central Catholic 16-14, 15-13 to reach the finals. In last night's second game, Clay was looking for more lightning in a bottle. After taking a quick 2-0 lead, the Eagles stretched it to 6-0 on the service aces of sophomore Kaitlyn Crawford.
SUA answered with six straight points to tie the game on a kill by junior Brittany Fox. But Clay regained the momentum, taking a 10-6 lead.
“They're a great defensive team,” Buck said of Clay. “They keep the ball in play and they force you to quicken it up. We got in a hurry for a while and they were digging everything we were hitting.”
Clay eventually went up 13-9 on a kill by senior Kate Yenrick, but failed to score another point after Florian ended that run with her eighth kill. The match ended when Clay failed to return the final serve from Arrows senior Kelsey Hills.
“I think we got a little too overconfident after that first game, but we finished it off at the end and that's all that matters,” Florian said.
Hayley Wiemer added five kills for the Arrows, all in the first game. They also got six kills from Mugler and four from Fox.
Senior Nina Mlynek topped the Eagles with six kills, and sophomores Ashley Rucki and Amy Lind added four apiece.
“We were a little nervous in game one,” Clay coach Brad Morrison said. “They had never been in this environment and I knew that would be a factor. In game two, we cleaned up the passing a little and we wanted to serve a little tougher.
“You're up 13-9, feeling pretty good, and then their All-American [Florian] rotates into the left front and all of a sudden it's 15-13. Sarah's a phenomenal player with a phenomenal cast and a great staff. They did what they had to do.”