Huron head coach Don Wood exhausted every timeout he could Thursday in the Lady Tigers’ Division III regional semifinal against St. Henry at Liberty-Benton High School.
But no matter how hard he tried to slow rallies by the Lady Redskins, Wood’s team was simply occluded from the road to Dayton in four games, 28-26, 15-25, 17-25, 16-25.
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With the win, St. Henry (16-10) gets a shot Saturday at Lima Central Catholic (24-1), the defending Division III state champion that eliminated Huron last season in the regional championship. LCC advanced with a four-game win over Heath, 23-25, 25-16, 25-11, 25-22.
The loss ends Huron’s season at 20-6 overall and marks just the second time in the past 10 years that an area team will not be a part of the state tournament next weekend at the Wright State Nutter Center.
The theme of the night for St. Henry proved to be blocking, and no barricade stood taller than 6-foot-2 middle hitter Brooke Mattingly, as the University of Louisville signee registered 12 blocks herself. Because of that, the Lady ’Skins took complete control after dropping a thrilling Game 1.
“I just thought we could have made a lot better decisions,” Wood said. “Because we did make that block of theirs look very good at times with our decisions, but that’s part of the game. We did a bad job getting any kind of balance.
“We didn’t handle the ball and did nothing to make them have to do at least a little bit of adjusting. It was pretty easy to know where we were setting the ball because we were out of system so much.”
After losing leads of 23-22 and 25-24 in the opener, St. Henry quickly proved there was no self doubt by racing out to a 20-9 lead in Game 2 behind the strength of Mattingly and Chelsea Stammen. And while Huron battled back to score six of the next 11 points, it was too big of a deficit in the 25-15 setback.
“That gave us a sigh of relief, and I think that is all it took,” St. Henry coach Lori Schwieterman said. “I think it was real important just so we could establish ourselves again and I think it just settled us down.”
In Game 3, St. Henry raced out to another quick lead at 5-1 with four straight points coming via the block, but Huron affirmed to make things interesting, as they rallied to tie the score at 11 and 12.
But in a flash, it was gone thanks to a couple mis-hits up front and an out of bounds hit as St. Henry pushed ahead 16-12, then went on to score eight of the next nine points to take a convincing 24-13 lead before finishing off the 25-17 win.
We did not serve nearly as aggressive as we did the first game,” Wood said. “That first game our serves were nice, hard and flat, and watching the last three games we put no pressure on them. We lost a lot of aggressiveness with our serving and it allowed them to go into attack mode really at all times.”
Game 4 was almost a carbon copy of Game 3, as St. Henry jumped out to a 9-3 lead only to see Huron claw back into it and get to within 12-9. The backbreaker in the game proved to be a kill by St. Henry’s Shelby Buschur that froze the entire Huron defense and hit in bounds by inches in the back row for a 17-12 lead.
From there, the Lady ‘Skins scored seven of the next 10 points for a 24-15 lead that made the end result all but text book.
“Everyone just stepped up and did a great job getting to the net and they covered the block too,” Schwieterman said. “Anything that came off a block we were able to get to.”
The opening game was rally scoring at it’s finest with Huron jumping out to a 10-4 lead but gradually St. Henry cut into that margin to tie the game at 22. From there the teams traded point after point with Huron finally breaking a 26-26 tie with a kill by Jesse Miedema and a mis-hit at the net by St. Henry for the 28-26 thriller.
“It was a really scrappy game by both teams, and it was a lot of fun,” Wood said. “Win or lose, that first game both teams made plays that counted, and that is what regional volleyball should be.
“They made a lot of hitting errors that game and we got some easy points when we needed them. But it goes back to putting pressure on them ... we lost that pressure immediately after that.”
Wood talked about St. Henry.
“They are a fine team,” he said. “If your not attacking them, you’ve got a lot of heat coming back at you. They took advantage of every opportunity they got.”
For Huron, Kelly Lehrer’s final performance as the lone senior on the Huron roster was another fine one, as she finished 132 of 132 setting with 32 assists. Miedema was 54 of 71 hitting with 15 kills and Erin O’Reilly was 19 of 19 hitting with nine kills.
Melissa Moberg was a perfect 16 of 16 serving with 20 digs defensively and Taryn Graham was 13 of 13 serving with 22 digs.
“We have a lot of youth out there and aside from being a little disappointed about these last three games, I’m real proud of the season we had,” Wood said. “With the one senior in Kelly, I thought we accomplished an awful lot.”