STOW: Walsh Jesuit found itself trailing against a fired-up Stow team which had its home floor, a vocal crowd and plenty of momentum Saturday afternoon.
Digging deep, Walsh overcame an opening-set loss to win the next three for a 14-25, 25-19, 25-22, 25-23 victory in a Stow Division I volleyball sectional final.
Neither team could gain control of a match that went down to the last point before senior Kit McCarty spiked one off a Kyra Coundourides feed to set off a Walsh celebration, sending the Warriors (11-12) into a district semifinal against top-seeded Hudson at 7 p.m Tuesday.
Hudson (17-6) won the day’s opening match over a game Nordonia squad, 25-18, 25-20, 25-23.
Stow’s players and fans thought a Walsh spike landed out of bounds in front of their bench which would have tied the score late in the fourth set. However, it was ruled inside the line and the Warriors had match point at 24-22. Senior Sydney Trathan’s kill brought the Bulldogs within a point, just before McCarty’s winning point.
“It was definitely a very back-and-forth match,” said Coundourides, who led her team with 43 assists and reflected the giddiness of the moment. “We played great, Stow played great. I’m not in shock right now. I’m just like, yes, let’s go, I’m so excited. But it feels great.”
Walsh knocked Stow (9-14) out of the playoffs for the third year in a row. But early on, a different result seemed in store. A nine-point run gave the Bulldogs a 21-12 lead. After two Walsh points, Stow scored four in a row — the last three by Madison Baer — to win the first set.
But paced by strong serving from senior Maddie Gaugler, who led her team with four aces, Walsh enjoyed a seven-point run to take a 12-4 lead in the second set and held on for a match-tying win.
“We went out in the hall as a team and just said, you know what, get all the nerves out, get all the jitters out, we’re going to back and play our game,” said Coundourides, a 5-foot-10 senior and Virginia Tech recruit. “We’re going to play intense, we’re going to be loud, we’re going to be aggressive. Everybody’s going to score points. First ball, first kill. We can do this. We had confidence in ourselves and each other.”
McCarty, who led the Warriors with 16 kills and senior Cassidy Gawlik, with 11 kills, both came alive in the next three sets. Junior Carolyn Bauer had 34 digs.
“It feels a lot more rewarding than it would if we just won straightaway,” said McCarty. “It feels great.”
Trathan had 15 kills and 17 assists for Stow, which also got 22 assists from Melissa Conrad and nine kills from Devon McLain.
“We knew it was going to be tough,” said Walsh coach Andrew Kerr. “Our girls, I really appreciate the way they played as a team and fought together. Even as we changed the lineup and brought subs in, they stuck it out and played a really intense match.”
In the first match, Hudson led 14-13 in the opening set before closing with an 11-5 burst as Krissy Mummey, a 6-3 senior middle blocker, scored five points. An 8-1 run gave the Explorers a 10-4 lead in the second set to hold off a late Nordonia (15-9) rally.
Paced by 6-3 sophomore Sierra Pla and junior Morgan Thomas, the Knights led 16-10 midway through the third set. Hudson finally took the lead for good, 22-21, on a Jordan Mackay kill and closed it out on two points by Mummey.
“We kind of let up in the middle of the third set,” said Mummey. “But being a senior and a captain, I feel like I have to make things happen. So every play I just treated it like it was game point and I just knew the team was counting on me to put a ball down.”
Mummey led the Explorers with eight blocks, Mackay had 15 kills and sophomore setter Amanda Przybocki contributed 35 assists. Junior Sarah Young had 28 digs.
For Nordonia, Pla had nine blocks and six kills and junior Rachel Slonsky nine kills and eight digs. Senior Bailey Watroba dished out 29 assists.
“The effort was there,” said Nordonia coach Lori Snider. “But I have just not gotten these girls to believe in themselves all year. We fight against our heads. But they work hard all the time.”
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