But one assessment Buck won't hesitate to make is that his current team — with a core group together for its third season — has recently been playing better it has ever played.
Central Catholic was the latest witness Wednesday night, falling 25-8, 25-17, 25-14 to the visiting Arrows in a matchup of City League unbeatens that lasted just 60 minutes.
“Our practices are brutal and these kids just keep on competing,” Buck said. “When we come out here for a match, they compete on every point.
“We were out of system a lot tonight, but we still kept putting pressure on [Central].”
The win pushed St. Ursula, Ohio's third-ranked Division I team, to 16-1 overall, and completed its CL schedule at 10-0. In 10 league matches, no opponent won even a single game from the Arrows. Their longest CL test was a 61-minute romp two weeks ago at Notre Dame.
With fourth-year Arrow senior starters Veronica Zimmerman and Maggie Burnham (13 kills) leading the way, the host Irish (15-5, 9-1) could offer little resistence. St. Ursula also got strong all-around play from juniors Madison Strall and Erin Williams, plus a solid attack presence from sophomore Maddie Burnham (6 kills).
Madison Strall returns aserve against CentralCatholic in Wednesday night's match. The Arrows are ranked third in Ohio in Division I and will be the top seed for the City League playoffs.
“I feel a lot better,” said Maggie Burnham, an All-Ohio third-teamer in 2009 who was slowed by a Sept. 18 ankle injury in the Arrows' loss to top-ranked Cincinnati Ursuline. “I just stopped taping two days ago, so I'm able to get more movement in it now. I'm back to 100 percent.
“I'm really excited. We have some good games coming up, in the City finals and the tournament. I'm excited about what the future holds for us.”
St. Ursula, the defending City champion, will be the top seed for Tuesday's CL playoff semifinals at Central. The Arrows will face No. 4 seed Clay (7-3 CL) in the 6:30 p.m. match.
Second-seeded Central will face No. 3 Notre Dame (8-2 CL) in the 8 p.m.semifinal. The City championship is set for 7 p.m. Thursday.
Ahead 7-4 in Game 1 last night, St. Ursula began to pull away with six straight points on the serve of Strall, a run that included two aces. That was part of a larger 15-3 Arrow run which the Irish found no way to interrupt.
Central remained relatively close (down 15-11) in Game 2 until Zimmeran landed a kill off a fake set, then delivered four straight aces on serve to end any suspense in that game.
Zimmerman, a first-team All-Ohioan last year, has developed one of the more potent serves in the state since last season, one that dives and curves sharply like a pitcher's slider in baseball. She served eight consecutive points to launch the Arrows into a 10-2 advantage in Game 3.
“I've been getting a lot stronger and have been working more on technique,” Zimmerman said of her serve. “Tossing is very important.
“We're really coming together as a team and it's great because we're peaking at the right time.”
The Irish, who were paced by fours kills apiece from Arika Knannlein and Abby Wietrzykowski, could get no closer than three poinst from there.
“We didn't put anything together tonight,” Central coach Melissa Belcher said. “When we finally started serve-receiving, we couldn't get the ball set. Then, if we got a ball set, we couldn't put it away. We had plenty of opportunities against a solo block and we didn't put the ball away. Our blocking was definitely lacking tonight and was totally ineffective.”
Contact Steve Junga at:firstname.lastname@example.org 419-724-6461.
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