ELIDA - The longer the ride lasts, the harder it is to see it come to an end.
The 2013 season was a special one for New Riegel with a perfect regular season, winning the last Midland Athletic League title and winning a district title.
But the ride came to an end Thursday in Elida.
PHOTO BY PAT GAIETTO
New Riegel’s Lauren Ladd hits past Toledo Christian’s Lauren Valigosky Thursday at the Division IV regional semifinal in Elida.
Toledo Christian got the best of the Blue Jackets in a Division IV regional semifinal 25-27, 25-16, 25-19, 20-25, 15-10.
"This has been a great year, sad to see it end this way," said New Riegel coach Cindy Walerius. "These kids accomplished a lot. These seniors, I feel so bad for them right now. It's hard to even talk right now; I just feel so bad for the kids. They worked so hard and they wanted it so bad. But it apparently wasn't meant to be tonight."
The mood though in the opposite locker room was obviously a more jubilant one.
"Wow, that was just about as good as it can get," said Toledo Christian coach Buffy Ruddy. "Defensively I think both sides were on fire. I'm just really thrilled with the way our girls played. It was a full team effort tonight. "
From the beginning of the match, it was obvious the crowd inside the Elida Fieldhouse was in store for a thriller. The lead changed hands nine times in the first game and each team fought off potential game-points.
After rallying to tie the game at 23, a Kara Scherger kill gave New Riegel that first chance to close it out, but Toledo Christian fought back. A Hannah Paul kill gave the Eagles a 25-24 lead and their own chance to take the early match lead, but Scherger came back with three straight kills to give New Riegel the opener.
It seemed like the momentum would stay on New Riegel's side as the Blue Jackets raced out to a 13-8 advantage in Game 2. Paul though led an Eagle rally. Toledo Christian closed out the game on a 17-3 run to win the game and even the match.
"I think the advantage we had was that we had lost a couple matches this season and they haven't," Ruddy said. "So, not being used to being behind the 8 Ball a little bit is a little nerve-racking; I can tell you that. Our girls just don't let up. They have a goal in mind. .. I'm really, really happy with their effort."
Paul led Toledo Christian with 19 kills and Darian Westmeyer finished with 15. Paul had 13 of her kills in the first two games to get the Eagles going, while Westmeyer took over after that.
"Darian is a great athlete. She's a 3-sporter. She's a track state champion. She's going to play basketball and track in college. Volleyball is her third sport," Ruddy said. "But the girl's a stud. She's a competitor. She just really came on fire. She really wants it."
Her play was key in the third game as Toledo Christian took the lead in the match and put New Riegel's season on the brink.
"I thought there were times we looked like in the third and fourth game that we just kind of gave up on ourselves sometimes," Walerius said. "Some of the hits weren't going our way and some things weren't going our way and I think we started getting down. A couple of our kids that normally don't have that many mishits they were starting to second guess themselves. They were asking what's open.
"But we came back in Game 4 and we battled. Give Toledo Christian a lot of credit, they served very aggressively and they definitely served at our weaker players that don't normally take serve-receive. It just got us out of our offense by their aggressiveness on their serve."
Scherger led New Riegel (25-1) with 18 kills. Ladd added 16 and Taylor Arbogast tallied 12. But a big problem all night for New Riegel was finding a hole on the floor that Toledo Christian's back row was just not allowing.
"They were very scrappy," Walerius said. "Their back row picked up a lot. Even when we felt we had a great hit, they were able to pick up. Which I knew going in they were a very scrappy team. That's what the scouting report had said."
"That's how I train them," Ruddy said. "We don't like to let the ball drop. I want to be known as the team that doesn't let the ball drop ever."
Toledo Christian (24-2) goes from one unbeaten team to another as the Eagles play McComb Saturday for the regional title. The Dave Reinhart-led Panthers beat Monroeville in the night's first match.