Flyers sweep Bucks

PHOTO BY STEVE WILLIAMS Buckeye Central’s Jenna Karl (5) goes high for an attack, as teammates Addie Ackerman (4) and Sarah Heydinger (6) set up to defend return play at Willard Thursday.

WILLARD — Coming into the Division IV district final against Norwalk St. Paul, Buckeye Central had tasted defeat just once this season with a 2-0 loss to St. Henry in the Redskin Invitational Sept. 3. No. 11 Buckeye Central knew it had to be near perfect to challenge No. 2 St. Paul Thursday.

It played well, but it wasn’t perfect as St. Paul dominated the Bucks in a 25-15, 25-18, 25-12 sweep at Willard. Buckeye Central finished the season 23-2.

“They ran a really quick offense and it was a struggle to keep up,” Bucks coach Jackie Reinhart said. “They have a great all-around team and they should be able to go very hard. “We tried to play with consistency and to not make errors. We just need to keep getting after it, but we made more errors, so it didn’t happen.”

The Bucks led early in Game 1 and 3, but couldn’t sustain anything late in any of the sets to put pressure on the Flyers (25-0) in the end.

The Flyers got 12 kills from Ashley Painley and Meghan Hedrick, while Painley tacked on a pair of aces and a block and Hedrick served up two aces. Tess Lepley added seven kills and a block.

“These kids know what it takes to play at that higher level,” Flyers coach Nancy Miller said. “This is a testament to how hard these kids have worked and all of the work they have put in in the offseason and into the weight room. They jump really well, we have speed at the net and I think Rachel (Bleile) can set any one of those kids and they are capable of putting the ball down.

“Our strength at the net is just awesome right now, but I think our back row puts us in that position. The defense we played tonight was phenomenal.”

Buckeye Central started well with a 6-5 advantage in the first set, but St. Paul began putting pressure on the Bucks as the Flyers ran out to a 15-8 lead after a Painley ace.

The Bucks tried to battle back, like they had to do most of the match, with two straight Emily Stump kills. However, St. Paul maintained its high-level of play to take the set. It continued its momentum in the second set with a 5-0 advantage, and eventually a 19-9 lead.

“Tonight was definitely better than Tuesday night. Tuesday I felt like we were just off,” Miller said. “We spent a lot of time yesterday and today before we came just working on the mental aspect of our game and I think it paid off. I think we were much more prepared to play the game tonight than Tuesday.”

The Bucks led early in the third set 4-2 after an Addie Ackerman ace. Then, Hedrick began to take over with three kills in the next four points for the Flyers. With St. Paul leading 9-8, the Flyers went on a 10-4 run to gain a 20-12 advantage and basically seal the match and the sweep. For the Bucks, Jenna Karl had nine kills and 14 digs, while Stump had six kills and a pair of blocks, Sarah Heydinger slammed six kills, Bailey Agin made 12 digs, Erin Baldosser added nine digs and Ackerman ended with 23 assists and eight digs.

With the Bucks losing just two seniors (Heydinger and Baldosser), the Bucks improved off last season with an N10 title and a district final appearance. It is also fair to say the future is bright for the volleyball program with a lot of players returning including all-around athlete Karl.

“We told them there is absolutely nothing to hang their heads about,” Reinhart said. “Going undefeated in our conference is something to be proud of, and then just from last year making it to the semis to the finals this year, goal No. 2 down and we have goal No. 3 for next year.

“We told the girls that next season for them starts tomorrow. Hopefully they will get right back at it and I know they are willing, so we will go with what we got.”