Arrows pushed to brink before rally

Top-ranked St. Ursula still unbeaten


BROADVIEW HEIGHTS — It’s not often in real life that you get a chance to hit the reset button, like in a video game, and turn something bad into something great.

With their previously perfect volleyball season seemingly spoiled by Chagrin Falls Kenston Wednesday night, the top-ranked St. Ursula Arrows (27-0) got an opportunity to do just that.

And — thanks to a favorable but correct officials’ call — they turned the agony of defeat into the thrill of victory in a roller-coaster 25-14, 17-25, 20-25, 25-11, 20-18 win in a riveting two-hour Division I regional semifinal played at Brecksville-Broadview Heights High School.

“It couldn’t top the state semifinals in 2004, but that one couldn’t be much more than this,” Arrows coach John Buck said when asked if this was the best match of his career at St. Ursula. “The girls played really well.

“We faltered in the middle of that match, but we told them after the third game that every great team has a defining moment. This needed to be theirs. They dug down deep and worked very hard to win that match.”

With the Bombers up 15-14 in the deciding fifth game, Kenston’s Emily Newell, slapped down what appeared to be the finishing blow of a major upset.

But, as the momentarily jubilant Bombers celebrated their conquest, and the stunned Arrows seemed destined for tears, Newell’s kill attempt was ruled a carry.

“We were screaming that it was a throw, which is an illegal hit,” Buck said. “She [the official] called it right away but, oh my gosh, it could have easily went the other way. If she swings and hits that instead of carrying it, the match is over.”

Instead of 16-14 and game over, it was instead a 15-15 tie and the Arrows used the 11th-hour reprieve to advance to Saturday’s 1 p.m. regional final here against Strongsville.

“I freaked out a little bit,” Arrows senior setter Madelyn McCabe said, “and then I saw [the official] had her arm toward us [signaling an Arrows point].

“I told everyone, ‘Come on, we can do this. We’ve got to play together and push these last points.’ ”

Down later 18-17, the match ended on consecutive Arrows kills from Morgan Rectenwald, and two from Lauran Graves.

Graves led St. Ursula’s balanced net attack with 17 kills, followed by Emily Lydey with 15. McCabe had 29 assists, Lydey contributed 23 assists, and the Arrows’ digs leaders were Maurissa Leonard (33), McCabe and Jayme Cox (14 each), and Ryann Cox (12).

The underdog Bombers (18-6) — who had lost 25-23, 29-27, 25-14 to the Arrows on Aug. 24 — stayed close to St. Ursula early in Game 1. They were down just 9-8 after a Rectenwald attack sailed long.

But teammate Morgan Finn followed with a kill for the Arrows, starting a game-breaking 7-0 run.

Leonard served six of those points, mixing in an ace, and St. Ursula held a commanding 16-8 lead. Lydey had the hot hand, delivering six kills in that game, which closed on a block by Daudelin.

St. Ursula appeared to be cruising along in Game 2, ahead 11-6, until hitting a lull that swung the momentum drastically in Kenston’s favor.

After Leonard served long to spark the Bombers’ run, Kenston continued on a 10-1 run that put the Arrows on their heels down 16-12. Lori Zagar served six of those points, including an ace.

Unable to slow the negative tide, St. Ursula was outscored 8-2 down the stretch in a 25-17 loss in Game 2.

That win made believers out of the Bombers, who carried their momentum and mental edge into Game 3, and carried in out with a 25-20 victory to put the Arrows on the brink of elimination.

“We knew we had to play every point like it was our last,” McCabe said. “We had our backs against the wall at one point, but we didn’t want to finish like that.”

Faced with its season about to end, St. Ursula regrouped in Game 4, bolting to a 14-6 lead, and then closing with a vengeance in a 25-11 win to force the deciding fifth game.

“We just gave each other a pep talk,” Daudelin said.

The key to the comeback was an adjustment to attack the middle, which Kenston was unable to block effectively.

Jaime Kosierek topped the Bombers with 15 kills, and Newell added 11.

“We came to win, and we wanted to fight for our seniors,” Graves said. “We kept playing every point to win.

“I thought it was over. That was a big turning point. If they don’t call that, we don’t win. It was easy to get back in it once we all got pumped up.”

Contact Steve Junga at:, or 419-724-6461 or on Twitter@JungaBlade.