The last time St. Ursula Academy lost a volleyball match to a team from the City League, or northwest Ohio for that matter, Notre Dame Academy senior Noelle Spitler was 10 years old.
Now 17, Spitler and her Eagle teammates finally put an end to one of the most impressive streaks in Ohio prep sports last night, clipping St. Ursula 18-25, 27-25, 29-27, 18-25, 15-5 before a packed home crowd of over 1,200.
"It's absolutely amazing," said second-year NDA head coach Scott Mattera, a former assistant at SUA. "It's been our goal since I came over here. [St. Ursula coach] John Buck's a great friend of mine and they're a class program.
"I'm just so proud of my girls. They played lights-out volleyball - so hard and with so much heart."
The Arrows had not dropped a match to local opposition since 1999. They saw their string of consecutive wins versus northwest Ohio teams end at 139 matches, and their run of wins in City League and CL playoff competition snapped at 81.
"We got beat by a really nice team tonight," Buck said. "They were solid all around. It was a great matchup head-to-head, and I thought it could have gone either way. Tonight it went their way.
"All good runs have to come to an end," Buck said.
The win gave Notre Dame (12-1, 8-0) sole possession of first place in the City League over third-ranked SUA (10-3, 7-1), which has reached the Division I state semifinals or beyond every year since 2000, including a 29-0 state-title season in 2004.
After dropping the first game, the Eagles set the tone in Game 2 by hanging on late. With the Arrows' Mary Hills serving for the game at 25-24, Spitler, who had 13 kills in the match, dinked a winner to tie the game.
Paige Roback of NDA then served the final two winning points as Arrow front-row standouts Alliya Drzewiecki and Ashley Heyman hit attacks long to end the game.
In Game 3, Notre Dame seemed to grab control, pushing to a commanding 18-11 edge on a kill from Jessica Batanian, who led the Eagles with 15 in the match.
But St. Ursula eventually rallied on the serve of Hailey Marvin into a 23-23 tie. A nail-biting finish saw the Eagles serve for the match at 25-24 only to see a Kelly Thomas dink forge a tie.
SUA twice served for the win before Hills found the net on a dink and Marvin hit the left antenna on an attack to give NDA the 29-27 win.
The Arrows regrouped to take the fourth game 25-18, closing on a Marvin kill, her ninth.
If there was any concern about lost momentum entering Game 5, the Eagles overcame that by bolting to a quick 8-3 lead, forcing two early timeouts by Buck.
The timeouts had little effect, however, as Spitler served Notre Dame from a 9-4 edge to the brink of victory at 14-4 with back-to-back aces.
An Arrow net violation on the final point ended SUA's impressive run.
"It's so amazing," Spitler said. "I'm so proud of my whole team. This is definitely the best feeling in the whole world. We knew if we played confidently we'd win."
"The biggest part of it is, with a team that has won that many matches in a row, it's easy to be intimidated," Mattera said. "But we've preached all year that we're not scared of them anymore. That's the biggest part of it because these girls went out and played like there was nothing to lose."
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