In 2002 after having been Division I state volleyball runner-up in 2000, then going 27-0 before losing in the 2001 state semifinals St. Ursula Academy s strong run appeared to have seen its apex.
The Arrows still had All-Ohioan Sarah Florian (currently playing at the University of Minnesota) returning as a junior in 02, but five senior starters graduated from the top-ranked squad.
Instead, 2002 and 03 saw two more fine seasons from coach John Buck s Arrows, and two more trips to the state semis.
Entering the 2004 season, with Florian graduated, surely there would be a dropoff. Wrong again. In fact, Arrows finished a perfect 29-0 and became Toledo s first school to win a state volleyball championship.
As the 2005 regular season closed with a match last night against visiting Perrysburg, the new question was just when would Buck s 21-0 Arrows finally lose.
Players like senior twins Allison and Emily Florian, fellow seniors Tighe Westrick and Katelyn Schissler, juniors Hailey Marvin, Ashley Heyman, Abby Walla and Maggie Hills, and sophomores Alliya Drzewiecki and Shannon Kanary, have carried the torch of SUA success admirably this season.
They entered last night s contest with a 50-match winning streak, dating back to a state semifinal loss to the nation s top-ranked team, Cincinnati St. Ursula.
The Arrows had also upped their string to 72 matches in City League play when they survived for a thrilling 14-25, 25-19, 25-19, 20-25, 17-15 victory over No. 7 Central Catholic in last Thursday s CL championship.
And, with a win last Saturday at Huron, ranked No. 3 in D-III, third-ranked D-III squad), SUA stood unbeaten in 127 consecutive matches against teams from the northwest Ohio region.
So just what is the dynamic that has enabled Buck and his Arrows to make such a run?
The first thing is having good athletes, said Buck, 227-35 (.866) in 10 seasons at SUA. I don t care how good a coaching staff you have, if you don t have the horses to get you there, you re not going to get there.
The second thing is the willingness of those athletes to come in here and work hard for three hours in practice, and to expect that. If I put in a 20-minute time limit on a drill and these kids don t get it right, they want to do it again.
We have preached No short cuts to the top, and I think they ve bought into it. They understand it and they believe it.
These factors explain the sustained excellence, but the streak seems to defy the odds.
It s hard for me to put a finger on it other than that they [current players] had such a great example set by the players ahead of the them, Buck said. An example as far as work ethic and desire and determination to win, and yet to still be relaxed and have fun while they re doing it.
Part of it is just that mental determination to never quit or never let up. They don t worry about losing, they just find a way to win.
Buck insists the credit should be shared.
I ve got 12 kids every year who are important to the team, and this [success] is a tribute to all the kids, he said.
In no year was that more evident than last year s state championship run. That team played the best as a unit.
We had some good players last year, Buck said. But other teams had some of those top-of-the-line kids, and we just played as a team.
This year s team echoes that. Not any one kid is shining and looking for the attention. They re all fighting to get out on the floor, but they understand that, if they re successful, the team will be successful, and vice versa.
Contact Steve Junga at:firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6461.