HUDSON: Walsh Jesuit volleyball looked like it was ready for a return trip to state the way it had been playing in the postseason.
But in sports nothing is ever certain, especially in a season where the unpredictable has become the norm.
A speedy Chagrin Falls Kenston kept the Warriors off-balance and defeated Walsh 3-2 in a Division I regional final Saturday night at Ray “Buck” Hyser Gymnasium.
The match came down to a white-knuckle final set and until the ball finally hit the floor on a return to give the Bombers a 15-13 win, fans on both sides went through a roller coaster of emotions.
The Walsh Jesuit players fell to the floor stunned. Their dreams of going back to state ended so suddenly it overwhelmed the players. They were tired, having to fight to keep their season going.
“I am proud of the way the girls fought back,” Walsh coach Missy Sturm said. “It seems as though that there are not many powerhouse teams left because teams are getting better and better throughout the state.”
Bombers coach Danny Coughlin said his team used one element to keep the Warriors off their game.
“We used our speed. … Speed, speed, speed is what we preach to the girls. We go fast and it is hard for other teams to set up against us,” Coughlin said. “This is my first trip to state in the almost 20 years I’ve been coaching. Did I expect to do it with so many juniors this year? Not really, but they have worked so hard for this.”
Lori Zagar had 28 assists and Emily Newell was brilliant with 19 kills, nine digs and four blocks.
In the first set, the Warriors (19-8) were behind 4-0 and 7-2 before they began to rally.
The teamwork that has made Walsh so formidable stepped up with Kyra Coundourides setting up Mary Grace Kelly, Annie Osterfield and Nicole Onderko with nicely placed passes to set up numerous emphatic kills. The Warriors won 25-21, which was the identical score the teams won by in the first four sets.
The second set started with the Bombers jumping out to an 11-5 lead, controlling the ball with passes to set kills for Newell, while the Warriors struggled on the front line to get blocks.
Kelly had some big kills down the stretch to tighten the score, but Walsh could not overcome the finishing kills from Katie Coverdale, Jen Smith, Newell and Amy Pilat. The Bombers (20-7) dominated the majority of the third set as junior captain Jamie Kosiorek made her presence felt. Despite six consecutive points that kept the Warriors alive, Kenston hung on to win.
Things were getting desperate for the Warriors in the fourth set. Behind 9-4 and 14-9, their season was in jeopardy but Walsh rallied to even the match at 2-2, setting up the dramatic fifth set.
Kelly was her usual presence on the front line, leading the Warriors with 27 kills. Coundourides had 45 assists with one ace.
Becca Kanz had 15 digs, and Onderko finished with seven blocks.
It was the last match for Walsh seniors Kanz, Osterfield, Kelly, Onderko and Katie Gaugler.
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