Of all the area teams headed to regional volleyball semifinals Wednesday and Thursday, none was less likely to get this far than Cardinal Stritch in Division IV.
The Cardinals — who closed the regular season at 14-8 overall, and finished second in the Toledo Area Athletic Conference — have reeled off four tournament wins, including three in straight sets.
Next up for the unranked Cardinals is a huge test against sixth-ranked New Washington Buckeye Central (24-2), which has also taken three of its four tourney wins in straight sets.
That match is set for 6 p.m. Wednesday at Elida, with the winner facing the victor of the 7:30 p.m. semifinal — 17th-ranked McComb (22-3) vs. ninth-ranked Mohawk (23-2) — for the championship at 2 p.m. Saturday.
In winning their first district title since 1999, the Cardinals defeated the same opponent (Ayersville) which had beaten them 3-0 in last year’s district final.
This time Stritch topped the Pilots 25-19, 25-22, 25-15 at Defiance. The Cards were led by seniors Briyanna Axtell and Sara Turner-Smith with eight kills each. Junior setter Autumn Crawford contributed 25 assists, and senior libero Abby Mass added 12 digs.
In Division I, Bowling Green State University’s Stroh Center will be the site of a regional semifinal showdown between second-ranked St. Ursula (24-1) and seventh-ranked Findlay (22-3) at 6 p.m. Thursday.
The two Three Rivers Athletic Conference foes each reached the D-I state semifinals last season, with St. Ursula advancing to the state championship match before falling against Cincinnati Mount Notre Dame to finish 28-1. Findlay was eliminated in the semifinals by Mount Notre Dame.
St. Ursula defeated visiting Findlay during TRAC play, and went on the win the conference tournament. The Arrows, who were 28-1 and state champions in 2010, are 80-3 overall since the start of that season.
In Division II, if 12th-ranked Eastwood (23-3), the Northern Buckeye Conference champion, is to advance, the Eagles will have to pull off a major upset at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at Ontario against top-ranked Parma Padua Franciscan (23-2).
If Eastwood does get past PPF, it would play for the title at 2 p.m. Saturday against the winner of Wednesday’s 6 p.m. semifinal — fourth-ranked Norwalk (24-2) vs. unranked Amanda-Clearcreek (19-5).
Seventh-ranked Archbold (23-2), the Northwest Ohio Athletic League champion, travels to Findlay High School for a Division III regional semifinal Thursday at 7:30 against unranked Coldwater (17-7). If the Blue Streaks prevail, they will face the winner of Thursday’s 6 p.m. semifinal between sixth-ranked Huron (22-3) and 15th-ranked Columbus Ready (17-8).
In Michigan, Whiteford won the Tri-County Conference volleyball title last week, wrapping up an unbeaten conference season with a win over Whitmore Lake.
The Bobcats had a first-round bye in their district tournament and will play on Thursday against Erie-Mason in the second round.
Four area teams captured district championships Saturday to earn berths in regional semifinals.
Perrysburg, Anthony Wayne, St. Ursula, and Swanton all remain among the final 16 teams in each division still competing in the postseason.
The Division I regional semifinal features Northern Lakes League opponents Perrysburg and Anthony Wayne at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Bowling Green State University's Cochrane Stadium.
Perrysburg’s undefeated Yellow Jackets (19-0-0) have perched atop the D-I state poll the entire season, outscoring foes 100-5.
The Jackets have also garnered attention in national polls while capturing a third straight NLL title with a 7-0-0 record. On Saturday, the Yellow Jackets rolled to a 7-0 win over Ashland at Findlay to win a third straight district title.
Forward Maddy Williams, who has committed to Purdue, has shattered the school record with 44 goals. Williams, who scored twice in the district title game, also has 14 assists.
Anthony Wayne (12-2-4) enters the match with a six-game winning streak. The Generals won the first district title in program history with a 1-0 shutout of Notre Dame on Wednesday.
AW has outscored its opponents 49-14. Junior goalie Taylor Hill has posted three straight shutouts in the postseason.
Anthony Wayne coach Lori Williams said her team has benefited from playing in the district final last year.
“We're excited for our Halloween date,” Williams said.
Perrysburg shutout Anthony Wayne 4-0 on Sept. 12. The winner this time plays for the D-I regional title on Saturday at 3 p.m. at a site to be determined.
In Division II, St. Ursula got two goals from Jordyn Greer to defeat Bowling Green 2-0 as the Arrows took home a district title on Saturday.
St. Ursula advances to face Akron Hoban on Wednesday at 7 p.m. at Sandusky High School.
The Arrows (11-5-3) have outscored opponents 52-21. St. Ursula knocked off No. 1 seed and No. 7 state ranked Maumee 4-1 in the district semifinals on Oct. 24.
Hoban (14-4-1) enters the semifinal on a six-game winning streak and has outscored its foes 43-20.
The D-II regional final will take place on Saturday at 3 p.m. at a site to be announced.
In Division III, Swanton upset top-seeded Woodmore 4-2 to take home a district title.
Next up for the Bulldogs (11-7-1) in the regional semifinal is Kalida (18-0-1). The teams meet at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Ottawa Hill.
Swanton has outscored its foes 83-47, the Wildcats 85-5.
The D-III regional final will be held Saturday at 3 p.m. at a site to be determined.
Five area teams advanced to regionals as Anthony Wayne and Southview prevailed in Division I district finals, while Port Clinton advanced in D-II. Ottawa Hills and Archbold will collide in D-III.
The seventh-ranked Generals face the Cougars in a D-I semifinal at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Central Catholic.
Westlake and Medina will meet in the other semifinal Wednesday at Nordonia. The winners will meet for the championship Saturday at noon at Sandusky High.
Ninth-ranked Bay Village takes on 10th-ranked Port Clinton in a D-II semifinal at Sandusky Perkins. The championship is set for noon Saturday at Lima Stadium. In the other semifinal, Ottawa-Glandorf meets Lima Bath Wednesday at Lima Stadium.
In D-III, 10th-ranked Archbold will play host to Ottawa Hills at Findlay in a regional semifinal, while sixth-ranked Mansfield Christian meets eighth-ranked Columbus Academy in another semifinal at Lexington. The title match will be Saturday at a site to be determined.