Rivals St. Ursula and Notre Dame will meet for the third time this season, this time on Saturday for the Division I district volleyball championship.
The two Three Rivers Athletic Conference foes set up that showdown Tuesday by taking comfortable victories in semifinal matches at Perrysburg High School.
In the first semifinal, Notre Dame’s Eagles (17-7) took a 25-15, 25-20, 25-19 win over Central Catholic (12-12).
St. Ursula (23-1), Ohio’s second-ranked D-I team, followed with a 25-11, 25-9, 25-15 triumph over City League champion Bowsher (20-5), which had defeated Southview and Clay in sectional play to advance this far.
The Eagles and Arrows play for the district crown at 3 p.m. Saturday at Perrysburg.
St. Ursula won the previous two meetings this season, both in four games.
This first was in regular-season TRAC play, the second in the conference tournament final.
The Eagles never trailed in Game 1 versus the Irish, who had a pattern of chipping away at the lead only to subsequently fall further behind on unforced errors.
Game 2 of that match repeated that pattern, and it wasn’t until the third game where Central finally held a lead after a midway point.
The Irish held a 13-9 lead after a kill from Megan Koralewski, necessitating a timeout from Eagles coach Jeff Pitzen.
That talk apparently righted the ship, as Notre Dame responded with a pivotal 8-1 run to retake control and a 17-14 lead. That surge grew to 16-6 as ND closed the match.
“It was about getting refocused,” Pitzen said of his timeout message. “We were playing lackadaisical and out of system. We were running a 5-1 and it wasn’t working in the front row. I made a substitution, and we switched to a 6-2 for one or two rotations. That seemed to help a little bit.
“We had just been going through the motions. [Central] was realizing that this was do-or-die for them, and they were playing much smarter volleyball than us at that time, so that’s when I told our girls that this was do-or-die for us. They had to get their heads in the right spot.”
Morgan Fioritto led the Eagles with 12 kills, including four on ND’s final five points in Game 3.
“We’re ecstactic about [another rematch with St. Ursula]. That’s our toughest rivalry, and also the funnest one to play,” Fioritto said. “We’re just going into [thinking] the third time is the charm.”
Madeline Smyth had eight kills for the Eagles, and Payton Bowyer added five.
Kristin Murrell topped Central with nine kills, Koralewski had six, and Kenzie Tschantz and Sierra Sedlak added five apiece.
Bowsher, which had rallied from an 0-2 deficit in games in its sectional final to topple Clay, fostered no such comeback against the much taller Arrows, who were state runners-up last season and state champions in 2010.
Maddie Burnham, a 6-foot-2 senior, led St. Ursula with 10 kills, Lauren Daudelin had six, and Emily Lyden added five.
The Arrows bolted to a 9-1 lead in Game 1, and the overmatched Rebels never got closer than seven points from there. In Game 2, stayed reasonably close longer, trailing just 12-6 before St. Ursula used a decisive 13-4 surge to close that win out.
Bowsher refused to go out quietly, however, remaining withing 12-9 until the Arrows’ size advantage again took its toll during a matching-closing 13-6 surge.
“We went in with [an attitude of] ‘Let’s fight, give it everything we have, and then hope for the best,’ ” Bowsher coach Heather Sherrer said of playing the underdog role. “That’s what they did, and I’m proud of them.
“This was an accomplishment getting here. We had a great season, and these girls worked really hard. These girls deserved to be here tonight. We’re going to come back ready to go again next year.”
The Rebels were paced by seven kills from junior Tierney McClure, and Victoria Turnbough added four kills.
“We’ve got three days to get ready, and we’re looking forward to a good match,” Arrows coach John Buck said of the final versus Notre Dame.
As for his team, Buck credited its approach.
“We did a better job tonight of playing it one point at a time, not wandering, and staying focused,” he said. “That was important. They kept their composure and took care of business.”
Contact Steve Junga at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6461 or on Twitter @JungaBlade.