ELIDA, Ohio — McComb coach Dave Reinhart could have picked a number of pivotal turning points in Saturday’s win against Toledo Christian in the Division IV regional vollyeball championship.
There were the 7-0 and 7-2 rallies in Game 1, a 13-1 run by the Panthers in Game 2, and clutch kills by his senior veterans in Game 3.
For Toledo Christian coach Buffy Ruddy, the turning point during a 25-22, 25-15, 25-22 loss was easier to pinpoint.
“The turning point for us was when our setter sprained her ankle in the second game,” said Ruddy, referring to a two-player collision near the net that left Kate Lindke hobbling the rest of the match.
“She was gutting it out for her teammates, and we appreciate that. But she wasn’t able to jump set and draw blocks like she normally can. We just weren’t able to rally back.”
Lindke’s play typified a gritty effort by the Eagles. But McComb — tall, talented, and ranked No. 2 in the final state poll — used its height at the net and a determined defensive effort of its own to beat the Eagles.
McComb (27-0) advanced to the state semifinals at 4 p.m. Thursday at Wright State University’s Nutter Center.
Toledo Christian (24-3) scored the first point in the first and third games and was tied with McComb 2-2 in the second.
But McComb kept running wave after wave of talented towers at the Eagles, with either the Huffman sistsers — Hailey, a 6-foot-4 senior, and 6-2 sophomore Jenna — or 5-10 senior Emily Clymer coupled with 6-2 freshman Molly Leppelmeier.
McComb ran off 7-0 and 7-2 rallies in the first game, then held on after Darian Westmeyer and Hannah Paul rallied Toledo Christian to within a point on two occasions. Paul’s kill and a net violation on McComb left the Eagles trailing just 20-19, and Paul’s ace made it 23-22 before a hitting error and a stuff block by McComb’s Makenna Babb and Emily Clymer won it.
McComb seemed well in control after dominating the second game. But Toledo Christian rallied again in the third, coming back from 12-8, 19-13, and 22-15 deficits to get within 24-22 on a kill and a block by Westmeyer and then a hitting error by McComb.
Clymer — one of four McComb seniors who saw the Panthers lose in three straight to Toledo Christian in the 2010 regional final — then hammered the kill that won the match and earned McComb its bid to state.
“They beat us in three straight [in 2010]. That was a very motivational thing for us,” Clymer said.
Added Ruddy: “With McComb’s size, we knew we going to get blocked, so we needed to have tight coverage for our hitters. We also knew we had to play great defense because the ball was going to be coming at us. [McComb] is never going to send a free ball over the net.”
Westmeyer finished with eight kills and a block for the Eagles. Paul had seven kills and two ace serves.
“She has transformed into a great leader for our team,” Ruddy said of Westmeyer, a three-sport athlete (volleyball, basketball, track) for the Eagles.
“She really developed a great passion fo the game.”
McComb was making its third trip to the regional final in four years. The regional championship is the first for the Panthers, but the trip to state is not for Reinhart, who won five state titles during a successful stint at Hopewell-Loudon.
“It never gets old,” Reinhart said with a chuckle.
“We have to keep improving, though, because we know our next match will be our toughest.”