Columbian holds off BG

FINDLAY – Twice previously in the night, Columbian had seen big leads slip away. A seven-point lead in the opening game disappeared as the Tornadoes fell behind Bowling Green in Wednesday’s district semifinal.

A five-point lead in Game 2 also vanished, but this time Columbian rallied from a late deficit of its own to tie the match.

In Game 3, it was an eight-point advantage on TC’s side of the scoreboard that was whittled down to a single point. But the Tornadoes weren’t giving this one up. They hung tough and pushed through with an 8-3 run to close out the game and take the lead in the match.

Again in Game 4 Columbian grabbed a big lead. There was no coming back this time. Columbian surged to the finish to close out Bowling Green 25-27, 25-22, 25-19, 25-17.

With the win, The Tornadoes earned a date with Toledo Central Catholic 7 p.m. Saturday at Findlay to decide the Division II district champion.

It’s the first time Columbian has reached a district final since 2008.

“It feels good. We have never made it this far,” said Columbian senior Alyssa Price. “We’re working together as a team. It’s a good feeling.”

After seeing a 20-13 lead slip away in Game 1, Columbian was in danger of a repeat in Game 2. Price served four aces during an eight-point run that staked Columbian to an 11-6 lead.

Bowling Green, though, showed a great amount of resiliency coming back again and holding a 21-19 lead.

Madison Williams lined two kills to tie things up and Haley Sendelbach produced one point out of a block and slammed two kills of her own, including one to close out the game.

Tornado coach Bill Bonham pointed to Game 2 as the turning point.

“That’s the frustrating part, but that’s the growing pains part too,” he said. “We had the lead in the first game, lost it. Had the lead in the second game, lost it, but managed to win. That’s one thing we talked about is, what truly is the momentum game? I always say the second game is. The first game is a warm-up game for a lot of kids. Considering this is a game of momentum, if you can win that second game, that can be a big turning point. That pretty much was for us. We came out, had a nice Game 3 and obviously we came out real strong in Game 4.”

Williams and Sendelbach took over the third game staking Columbian to another big lead. Price added a kill that gave the Tornadoes a 16-8 advantage.

“That’s kind of been our Achilles’ heel all season,” said Bowling Green coach Mandy Pasley. “We aren’t the team that comes out the strongest, but we don’t give up and we keep fighting. We knew coming in Tiffin starts out strong and we had to be prepared for how we were going to counter that.”

Before too long, the lead was cut to 17-16.

“We just needed to work on the little things and work as a team,” Price said. “Everyone brought each other up. When we made a mistake, everyone picked everyone up.”

Columbian closed out the game with a fury taking control of the match.

Williams put down seven kills in the game, responding to a challenge from her coach.

“I looked at Maddie at one point and said ‘When are you going to start playing?’ And she took that personally. And I took it personally. And she answered,” Bonham said. “Right when I said that she came out with two kills right down the line in that third game. Then she went back and started hitting her jump serve with a little more intensity too.”

“I don’t like to disappoint my coach,” Williams said. “So I thought I should probably pick it up. And especially because I wanted to win really bad.”

Williams said the team wasn’t willing to lose the third game, putting its season on the line in the fourth.

“I think we knew if we won that game we could win the next game and it would’ve been easier than if we lost it and we would’ve lost momentum,” she said.

Columbian did though fall behind the fourth game 10-7. Then Williams took the serve. She put down a pair of aces, Sendelbach slammed three kills and scored off a block, and Price also slammed a kill during a 9-0 spurt.

Bowling Green grabbed the next two points, but couldn’t get any closer than five the rest of the way. Sendelbach had six of her team-high 19 kills in the deciding game. Williams finished with 15 kills while Price had 11 and five aces.

Tessa Fuhrer and Jourdan Hoffman shared the duties of setting up the hitters, each handing out 20 assists.

Though her team’s season came to an end, Pasley was proud of the effort her team showed.

“This is the best they’ve played all year, played as a team,” she said. “Our seniors went out and played with their hearts and that’s what we needed. Unfortunately this didn’t go our way. To Tiffin’s credit, they came out and they don’t give up either. Both teams fought really hard, it was a fun match.”

Bonham said one of the keys to his team pulling through was matching the energy level the Bobcats brought to the court.

“We talked a little bit about playing with effort and high energy and don’t get outmatched,” he said. “BG brought a lot of energy. The girls had it on the floor, their coaches had it on the bench, their subs had it on the bench. A lot of enthusiasm, and our goal was to try to match that. And they made it tough to match their enthusiasm, but I think we found it.”