CUYAHOGA FALLS: Voters for the Ohio High School Boys Volleyball Association state polls and all-state teams got it right.
Led by All-Ohio stars Ryan Koehlke and Jeff Fiorenza, top-ranked Bishop Fenwick fought back Sunday from an early deficit to overtake host Walsh Jesuit, 19-25, 27-25, 27-25, 25-18, to win the OHSBVA Division II state championship.
“My big thing was just handling the moment,” Fenwick coach Yoon Ha said. “Everything with the way we started was what I was afraid of. Once we settled down, we were able to grind it out.”
Koehlke, a 6-foot junior outside hitter, had a match-high 20 kills and hit .306 in leading the Falcons (23-2) to their first boys volleyball state title.
“Ryan was on all weekend,” Ha said. “Yesterday, his jump serve was phenomenal. He’s a great athlete and he plays smart. This is the best he’s ever played.”
Feeding off a raucous home crowd, third-ranked Walsh Jesuit (22-6) came out of the gate 6-0 and won the first game 25-19, but had no answer for Koehlke.
“He was their go-to guy and he kept hitting the same spot,” Walsh coach Connor McCluskey said. “We didn’t adjust the way we should have.”
The second game was tied 18 times before the Falcons pulled out a 27-25 win behind eight kills from Koehlke.
“Block out the first game and start over,” said Fenwick’s big hitter after celebratory hugs with family and friends. “I was feeling it. I was in the mood.”
The Falcons also were able to lean on 5-foot-10 junior Fiorenza, the Division II state player of the year, who compiled 14 kills, 26 assists, eight digs and three blocks.
Fenwick built a 22-19 lead in game three, only to see Walsh equalize at 22-22. Senior outside hitter Anthony Collins helped the Warriors stave off three game points, yet the Falcons won 27-25 to take a 2-1 lead in the match.
In game four, Fenwick sophomore Ben Goubeaux served 10 straight points to give his team a 14-4 lead. But Walsh answered with a 7-0 run to make it 14-11 and Fenwick countered to take a 20-13 lead. The Warriors rallied again, slicing their deficit to 21-18.
“I think that shows the character of all of my teammates and my coaches,” Collins said.
The Falcons then ran off four points to clinch the state title, punctuated by Koehlke’s kill.
“We were down nine points and I never felt like we were out of it,” McCluskey said. “I actually kind of thought we were going to pull that fourth game out.”
Attack leaders for Walsh were senior All-Ohioan Rob Russell (18 kills), Collins (13), and senior Michael Panning (12). Their sophomore setter Ross Russell had 45 assists.
“Fenwick earned that victory,” McCluskey said. “I’m really proud of my guys for getting this far.”
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