St. Ursula's Hannah Engler, right, attempts to spike the ball against Central Catholic's Sierra Sedlak on Thursday. The Arrows beat the Eagles in three games.
THE BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH
There may be no stopping the top-ranked St. Ursula volleyball team this season, at least in northwest Ohio, and Thursday night Central Catholic found out it is difficult just slowing the Arrows down.
St. Ursula moved to 17-0 overall with an impressive 3-0 Three Rivers Athletic Conference victory over the visiting Irish, and clinched the top seed for the TRAC playoffs which will be held at St. Ursula next Thursday.
The Arrows (6-0 TRAC), who have one conference match remaining Monday against Fremont Ross, are aiming for the fifth unbeaten regular season in school history. The others came in 2001, ’04, ’05, and ’11.
PHOTO GALLERY: Click here to view photos from the game
“The first two games we were firing on all cylinders,” Arrows coach John Buck said. “We were playing good ball, we were controlling it, and our servers were outserving their passers.
“It’s nice to be 17-0 and we’ve set ourselves up well for the TRAC playoffs. We’re looking forward to defending it on our home court.”
St. Ursula — bolstered by a strong service game and solid back-row defense — breezed past the overwhelmed Irish 25-8 and 25-11 in the first two games as Central coach Jennifer Bronikowski searched for adjustments to stem the tide.
It wasn’t until the deciding third game that she found something that at least made the Arrows strain a bit to clinch the match.
Central was tied as late as 18-18, and still was withing 20-19 before St. Ursula sealed things with 5-1 closing surge capped by back-to-back aces from senior Madelyn McCabe.
“From my perspective it doesn’t get a whole lot worse,” Bronikowski said. “When you can’t serve-receive a ball, or get a solid attack on a ball, that’s a major major problem.
“We changed a little bit of our offense [in Game 3]. We moved a player to the middle, who doesn’t typically play the middle, and we moved our middles to the outside, just to mix things up.
“It looked we were able to get more touches on blocks, which was what we needed to slow their [attack] down. But St. Ursula is a phenomenal volleyball team. That’s all there is to it. They’re very solid all the way around.”
Junior middle hitter Lauran Graves paced the attack for the Arrows with 10 kills, with sophomore Elizabeth Coil adding five kills, senior Lauren Daudelin four, and junior Morgan Finn three in the 64-minute match.
“We were just ready for anything Central was going to bring our way, and we played hard,” Graves said. “It’s definitely a big goal that we want to accomplish [unbeaten regular season]. We’re on our way and we hope we get there.
“I’m hoping we can get back to state. We’ll see how it works out.”
St. Ursula has reached the Division I state semifinal nine times in 13 seasons since 2000, including three straight, and won state titles in 2004 and 2010.
The Irish (10-7, 3-3) were led on their relatively stifled attack by senior Sierra Sedlak and junior Kristin Murrell, who had five kills each.
“Every time we have a match we’re just trying to improve on some things, setting some goals, and trying to get better,” Buck said of preparing for Division I tourney play. “Right now, we’re trying to improve our offense. Our defense is playing well. We’re looking to get our hitting efficiency up and get more blocks.”