Jones, Cardinals too much for Bucks in 3-1 loss

PHOTO BY JILL GOSCHE Buckeye Central's Courtney Pifher (18) and Emily Stump try to block the shot of New Bremen's Paige Jones during the state semifinal volleyball match at the Nutter Center in Fairborn Thursday.

FAIRBORN — It was just the start Buckeye Central wanted.

Up 5-2 after a New Bremen service error.

Leading 8-3 after a Lexi Evak kill.

Then, remarkably, running off another seven straight points.

Yes, the Bucks were dominating Game 1 of the Division IV state semifinals at the Nutter Center.

“We just came out really aggressive,” BC coach Jackie Nye said. “We weren’t making a lot of errors at the beginning of that first set. They were making a lot of errors, so that helped us extend our lead.”

The Bucks won the first game, but it wasn’t easy. Buckeye Central went ahead 21-10 when Jenna Karl slammed down a kill.

But then the Cardinals’ top player, hitter Paige Jones, got going. And nothing was quite the same after that. New Bremen took the match in four, winning 22-25, 25-16, 25-23, 25-18.

Jones — who went on to finish with a state tournament record 47 kills — went on a run at the end of Game 1.

Then, behind Jones, New Bremen dominated Game 2. By the time the Cardinals had opened up an 11-6 lead in the set, Jones already had 20 kills.

“Everything that could go wrong, was going wrong,” New Bremen coach Diana Kramer said of her team’s start. “But that’s volleyball, and that’s, … we’ve been in that situation already.”

In the second game, Buckeye Central was unable to generate much momentum as Jones continued to pound kills. The Cardinals opened up leads of 21-12 and 24-15 before closing it out.

The third game was the tightest of the four. Karl, who finished the match with 15 kills and 23 digs, found a bit of a rhythm, and her team escaped an early 7-4 deficit, taking a 12-10 lead when the senior smashed a ball by the Cardinal players.

New Bremen came back to tie the match at 12, but then BC put together one of its best stretches of the match, scoring five of the next six points to go up 17-13.

But New Bremen answered. After an Alivia Niese kill put BC up 19-16, the Cardinals scored four of five points to tie the game at 20.

The Bucks regained a 22-20 lead following a Karl kill and an attack error, but the Cardinals answered with four straight points, then finished the match on a Jones kill.

“We made too many mistakes there toward the end of that set, which ended up giving them the lead,” Nye said. “I think we were back on our heels a little bit, and not playing quite as aggressive. It was definitely a pivotal set.”

In Game 3, there were nine ties and a pair of lead changes.

In Game 4, Buckeye Central never had the lead.

New Bremen took an early lead of 8-4, then went up 16-10 before the Bucks made one last push. They scored six out of the next seven points, pulling to within 17-16 after back-to-back kills by Stump.

Stump finished with 12 kills and 17 digs, while Evak had 11 kills. Ackerman dished 33 assists.

But New Bremen proved too much. It regained control of the game with three straight points, built a 23-18 lead, then put the match away on a Taylor Paul ace and a kill by Jones.

BC’s season ended at 26-2.

“It’s been amazing,” Karl said. “Although we came out with a loss, this is a season I’ll never forget.”

“We got along really well together, so that helped a lot,” Ackerman said. “It was a lot of fun, and we never thought we would get this far.”

The Cardinals move on to face St. Thomas Aquinas, who eliminated Lancaster Fairfield Christian in three games Thursday.

Abby Thieman finished with 27 assists for the Cardinals, while Madison Pape had 25. Jones had 20 digs to go along with her kills, and Pape added 17 digs.