The St. Paul Lady Flyers didn't want to be the team to fall short of past program expectations.
That rang true Saturday afternoon in a Division IV district championship at Willard against Buckeye Central (22-3), as the Lady Flyers swept the No. 5-ranked team in three games, 25-23, 25-20 and 26-24.
St. Paul (20-4) advances to the Division IV Solon regional semifinals to play Wellsville (19-7) at 6 p.m. Wednesday.
St. Paul will make its eighth trip to the regional in nine years and have a chance for its seventh trip to the state tournament with a pair of wins next week. Dalton (20-3) will play Kirtland (11-12) in the other side of the bracket.
"That's the best we've played," St. Paul coach Nancy Miller said. "They are finally bringing it to the floor."
Miller's top four servers finished 56 of 59 with 31 points and nine aces. Buckeye Central has two powerful middle hitters that Miller knew would do damage, but the Flyers had to take care of everything else.
"When you play great middle hitters like that, you know that they are going to get great kills against you," Miller said. "That is going to happen. We took care of all the other balls and served well. The girls played their hearts out today."
There were nine ties in the first game before St. Paul pulled away with the final two points to get the win. In the second game, the score was tied 13 different times until the Lady Flyers scored the final five points to win.
Game 3 featured 12 ties and Buckeye Central had a 24-23 lead serving game point but St. Paul got a miss-hit, a kill from Olivia Livengood and another hitting error by Buckeye Central to seal the trip to Solon.
For St. Paul, Corynne Smith was 20-of-21 serving with 14 points and three aces while coming up with 33 digs on defense. She was also 34-of-35 on serve receive.
"We did not follow the game plan we had set up," Buckeye Central coach Bill Bonham said. "Our goal was to keep the ball out of the hands of Smith, and what did we do? She handled more serves than anyone. We are better than what we showed."
Livengood was 30-of-34 hitting with 18 kills (.412 hitting).
She added 11 points and three aces on 17-of-17 serving with 11 digs. Hillary Fritz was 94-of-94 setting with 41 assists and added 14 digs.
Erin Kramer was 31-of-37 hitting with 16 kills (.270 hitting) while Jessica Draime added seven kills.
Bridget Ott was 10-of-11 serving with three points and two aces while Elise Nickoli was 9-of-10 with three points and an ace.
Although St. Paul replaced six seniors who were mostly three and four-year starters from last season's state runner-up team, Miller believed tradition played a role in Saturday's match.
"These girls have been there watching over the years," she said. "That desire is there. You look at Olivia, her sister was a key player for the past three years. You've got Bridget and Haley Ott as sisters on the team.
"A lot of the kids who have been in and around the program and have seen what the kids before them have done. It's a tradition and an expectation they expect of themselves. They don't want to be the team to not do it."