MONROEVILLE — St. Paul was in uncharted waters Tuesday night. But, so was Monroeville.
It took five games for the Lady Flyer volleyball team to put the wrap on an 11th straight Firelands Conference title Tuesday night with a 25-23, 16-25, 20-25, 25-17, 15-7 win.
The loss, Monroeville’s second in FC (11-2) and sixth of the campaign (15-6), dampened a brilliant performance by junior outside hitter Jamie Kluding.
She was 64-of-74 at the net with 29 kills.
St. Paul moved toward the sectional tournament with a spotless 13-0 FC record and 17-3 overall mark.
“The key to our winning was how we kept our composure despite being down two games to one,” Lady Flyers coach Nancy Miller said. “My girls showed some fight. They showed spunk and that was great to see. We did a complete reversal from the Findlay match as far as blocking. And, you can’t beat experience in battling through tough situations like this one. Monroeville was impressive, especially with the way it passed the ball. And good passing equated to smart hitting. They found holes in our defense.
“I saw pride in the program in that fifth game,” the coach added. “I can’t remember the last time a conference team took us to five, maybe never. But, to go along with that pride, I want to see more confidence from my girls and that includes teams like Monroeville, who certainly came in ready to play.”
A St. Paul loss would have snapped a FC win streak that dates back to the 2005 when the Lady Flyers shared the league crown with Western Reserve.
The first game was not so much what St. Paul did right, but rather what Monroeville did wrong. The Lady Eagles had four serving errors in a game when the score was tied 17 times. Monroeville’s biggest lead was a point. St. Paul led by two four times.
Kluding’s vicious kills had her team tied at 20-20.
A block, however, by Hillary Fritz gave St. Paul a 23-22 advantage. Jessica Draime followed with a block to bring on game point. Monroeville’s fourth serve into the net finished it.
St. Paul never led in the second game. A kill by Kaitlynn Heck gave Kendra Orwig’s team a 2-1 lead it didn’t relinquish.
Kluding would team with the solid play of sophomore Brylie Schafer and senior Alex Miller to run up a 24-15 advantage. A Lady Flyer serving error sent the match to a third game.
The Lady Eagles would spot St. Paul a 17-13 advantage in the third game as Olivia Livengood went on an ace binge, while sophomore Erin Kramer and senior Sarah Rhoad also did their share at the net.
But, when St. Paul got sloppy passing the volleyball, Monroeville was more than willing to catch up at 20-20.
The Lady Eagles used the lead of Heck and Kluding to score the last five points.
The two teams battled on even terms through the first 13 points of the fourth game, but with Fritz serving and Draime hammering away at the net, the Lady Flyers broke out for an 11-6 advantage. But Kluding was there to stop the run.
She hammered two shots and Heck got a return to ride the top of the net to make it 11-10. Kluding’s tip and Alex Miller’s block gave Monroeville a 15-13 lead.
But, the uprising would end right there. With Bridget Ott serving, the score went from 15-13 Monroeville to 21-15 St. Paul.
Fritz got the lion’s share, although Ott helped with an ace and Livengood also got involved as the winners won 11 of the last 13 points, forcing the tie-breaker.
St. Paul came out firing in the finale, getting two aces from Corynne Smith, a tip from Livengood and a kill from Ott to open a 5-1 advantage.
Monroeville tried to stay in the game but it would be way too much Rhoad in the next St. Paul rally, one that took them from 7-4 to 11-4.
Rhoad was the difference either by blocking or hitting right to the end.
“This was the first time we did not give up when playing St. Paul,” Orwig said. “Usually, we play hard and then quit but tonight we played hard in all five games. The difference was probably their experience in big matches but we are getting there. We moved one step closer tonight.
“Jamie is my stud in the front row,” the coach added. “She sets, she tips, she hammers. She was outstanding. But so was Katie Heck. We moved her to the right side tonight in an effort to get Jamie more swings.
“My libero, Olivia Smith, was also key in keeping long volleys alive. I give a lot of credit to St. Paul’s Corynne Smith and rightly so as she is one of best liberos in the state, but my Smith girl is right up there.
“Serving errors probably cost us the first game. It was one we could have easily won. Lack of focus cost us, but we got it back together enough times to make it close.”
In serving for St. Paul, Livengood went 18-of-18 with 10 points and four aces, Smith 17-of-18 and seven points and two aces and Elise Nickoli 14-of-14 for five points.
Livengood was 48-of-55 at the net with 21 kills, Haley Ott 21-of-27 with seven kills and Kramer 19-of-24 with eight kills.
Fritz set 136-of-137 with 43 assists.
Smith led the way in digs with 27, while Nickoli had 20. Heck helped Kluding at the net, going 23-of-25 with nine kills and Miller added 22-of- 24 with six kills.
Miller was a perfect 105-of-105 setting with 39 assists, while Kluding checked in at 33-of-33 with seven assists.
Miller posted 19-of-21 in serving with one ace, while Brooke Barnett contributed 19- of-20 with one ace.
Olivia Smith had 24 digs, four more than Kluding. Amanda Wilhelm added 10.
The reserve match also went St. Paul, 25-9, 25-16.
Veronica Easler went 28-of-28 in setting with 12 assists and 14-of-15 serving for 12 points and six aces. Maddie Meyer added 6-of-8 with five kills.
Both teams close FC play Thursday. St. Paul is at Crestview and Monroeville is at New London.