In a match befitting two of Ohio's best volleyball teams, top-ranked St. Ursula Academy tightroped its way to a sixth straight City League championship last night, taking a 14-25, 25-19, 25-19, 20-25, 17-15 victory over seventh-ranked Central Catholic at the Waite Field House.
The estimated 1,600 in attendance may have witnessed the very best volleyball ever played between two CL schools as Central, which has had trouble in past years bringing its best effort against the powerhouse Arrows, brought it all on this night.
Only when Fighting Irish senior All-Ohioan Ellen Herman sent an attack long to end this 1-hour and 49-minute classic could the defending Division I state-champion Arrows (20-0) breathe a sigh of immense relief in pushing their winning streak to 49 straight matches.
Both SUA coach John Buck, who is now 226-35 in his 10th season, and Irish coach Denise Wiczynski agreed that a better City League match has never been played.
"I've been in some pretty games before here [in CL playoffs] but I can't remember one being better than this one," Buck said. "If you play this well, you should be able to get to Dayton [for state tournament].
"Two warriors went to war and it was great battle. Nobody showed many signs of weakness."
"That was a state-championship-caliber match right there," Wiczynski said. "I couldn't ask for anything more out of my kids tonight. They all played awesome. They stepped up to the plate.
"There were two evenly matched teams and it could have been anybody's game tonight. Our kids had the heart tonight, they were set on winning, and they gave it everything they could, right from the get-go. We fell two points short."
The Irish (18-4) came out smoking in this one, grabbing a quick 7-2 in in Game 1 and pushing it to 14-6 on the first of senior Mallory Strall's 12 kills. SUA never overcame the Central momentum and got no closer than six points.
But the Arrows -- who have now won 72 in a row in CL regular-season and playoff matched since the start of the 2000 season -- surged to a 6-1 lead in Game 2 and never trailed, shoring up their defense and passing game.
SUA took Game 3 by an identical 25-19 count, but this time fought a back-and-forth war with the Irish. The match saw five lead changes, Central's last at 17-16 with Herman's vicious serve supplying four of those points.
Central scored the first six points, stretched the lead to 9-2, then held off a late SUA rally to force the fifth game to 15.
In Game 5, the lead changed hands seven times along with nine ties, and neither team ever led by than two.
Arrow sophomore Alliya Drzewiecki pounded down her 18th kill to give SUA a 16-15 lead, setting up the match-winning point.
"This was definitely a real high-caliber match," Drzewiecki said. "The intensity was amazing. It felt like more than a City League [playoff] game.
"I think we just have a great desire to win and we don't like losing. We have confidence that we're going to win no matter what."
Senior Allison Florian, playing on her fourth CL title team had 12 kills and junior Ashley Heyman added eight.
Twin sister Emily Florian contributed 40 assists, and senior Tighe Westrick led with 13 digs.
Sophomore Ashley Frazier matched Strall's team-high 12 kills, Herman had 11 and Margot Joniec 10 for the balanced Irish attack.
Contact Steve Junga at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6461.