ELIDA, Ohio — The Toledo Christian volleyball team showed tremendous heart and determination in upsetting New Riegel in a Division IV regional semifinal on Thursday night.
In a tooth and nail scrap, the 11th ranked Eagles outlasted No. 3 New Riegel 3-2 in a tense and lengthy match at Elida High School.
Toledo Christian lost the first game 27-25 but won the next two 25-16 and 25-19. But the Eagles dropped the fourth game 25-20 before rallying again to clinch the match 15-10 in the decisive fifth game.
In a hot gym with high drama, Toledo Christian (24-2) emerged to face No. 2 McComb (26-0) in the regional final at Elida at 2 p.m. Saturday.
“I told my girls all season long we have to play every single set like it’s the state title match because you never know when you will meet that team,” TC coach Buffy Ruddy said. “We made every point count.”
Sophomore middle hitter Hannah Paul led TC with 19 kills. Paul finished the match with two big kills for the 14th and 15th points.
“This is amazing,” Paul said. “This is everything we worked for. We came together at the end and we’re going to the regional final. All our efforts are paying off right now.”
Senior outside hitter Darian Westmeyer finished with 18 kills.
“They are high-pressure players and they can just hammer it,” Ruddy said.
But the hitters’ efforts were set up by a great passing game from libero Abbie Toland and outside hitter Sam Korn.
“They are two of the best passers around. They really elicit our quick offense,” Ruddy said.
Ruddy said sophomore setter Kate Lindke has a high volleyball IQ and makes the offense run.
Toledo Christian led 19-15 in the first game. But New Riegel went on a 7-1 run to take the lead and went on to win on Kara Scherger's kill. Scherger finished with 17 kills.
“We just encouraged each other and told each other we could do it,” Paul said.
The Blue Jackets then opened the second game with a 5-0 lead.
“We stayed mentally focused,” Ruddy said. “We talked about how rankings don’t matter. It only matters what you can produce.”
Indeed the Eagles clawed back with a 4-0 run and then took their first lead, 14-13, after a 6-0 charge. Defensive specialist Robin Bridgman got seven straight points, including two aces, while serving to finish the game. TC ended it with a 8-0 spurt as Paul had eight kills in the game.
The Eagles again found themselves down 7-3 in the third game. But they closed the gap with a 8-0 run. Toledo Christian went up 20-15 after a 7-2 run. It was tied at 13 but TC ended it by outscoring the Blue Jackets 12-6.
New Riegel bounced back to win by five points in the fourth game.
But Toledo Christian opened up a 4-1 lead in the decisive fifth game. New Riegel tied it at 8 as both teams showed great stamina.
Toland served five straight points, including two aces, for a 14-10 lead. Paul closed it with two huge kills at the TC faithful erupted.
“We don't want to go home,” Paul said. “You do whatever you can to stay in it.”
McComb defeated Monroeville 25-15, 25-17, 16-25, and 25-14 in the first semifinal at Elida.
“I love this level of intensity,” Ruddy said. “We've been craving this level of competition all season. So this is so fun.
“On Saturday, we will play like it’s the state title match again.”
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