One week after the disappointment of losing to rival Notre Dame on the same court, St. Ursula bounced back impressively Thursday on senior night to defeat visiting Clay 25-19, 25-14, 25-11, to create a three-way tie for the Three Rivers Athletic Conference volleyball championship.
“I’m super proud of the way my kids played tonight,” third-year Arrows coach Sydney Antonio said. “I’m always proud, but today I’m a little extra proud because they all played extra hard for our seniors.
“It was mental toughness tonight. We’ve worked hard on the mental part of the game this year, and we have a great trainer this year, who has helped us overcome some obstacles. Tonight was a great time for that.”
Although the host Arrows (11-8, 6-1 TRAC) were jubilant after the victory, which included 11 service aces, Clay (11-10, 6-1) did not go away empty handed.
VIDEO: St. Ursula-Clay
The Eagles already had secured their share of the conference title, when they defeated Fremont Ross 3-0 as Notre Dame earned its 3-0 win here Oct. 4 against the Arrows.
Notre Dame (13-9, 6-1) locked up its share of the conference title Thursday by beating Whitmer 3-0. It is the third consecutive TRAC championship for ND.
Clay played even with St. Ursula early in Game 1, pulling to a 10-10 tie on a kill from Maddison Hornyak.
But that was as good as it got for the young Eagles (three seniors) of first-year coach Carrie Wagoner.
The Arrows took the lead on Jillian Seitz kill, and Katie Baumgartner subbed in to serve, and delivered five more points as St. Ursula went up 16-10 on a kill from Anna Henry.
Clay got no closer than four from there, and the game ended on an errant serve from Hannah Blausey. The Eagles were hindered by five unforced errors in the game.
In Game 2, Clay was tied for the last time at 9 before the Arrows closed on a 16-5 run that included two aces from Baumgartner, and one apiece from Seitz and Jaclyn Graf, one of St. Ursula’s two seniors on the roster. Libero Abbey Glancey is the other.
“The key tonight was just playing together,” said Arrows junior Payton Morman, who had five of the aces. “We have two seniors and we wanted to celebrate their success and our success, and we came out with the win.
“We had a slow start [to season], and it was great pulling through and getting a league title. We work on serving a lot in practice, and I when I go back to the line I just have to make sure to do the same technique every single time and I’ll be good.”
That game-ending momentum continued for the Arrows throughout Game 3, which was lopsided from start to finish, and included five more St. Ursula aces against a struggling Eagles back row.
“There were some plays that didn’t go our way, and there’s always the home-court advantage, which I understand,” Wagoner said. “We just didn’t have our mojo tonight. We didn’t play as a team. Our passes were all over and if our passes aren’t there, we can’t finish anything.
“I have very young back row. They’re all sophomores, and they’ll all be back next year. We still took a TRAC title, and I’m happy with that for being a first-year coach. We just have a lot of work ahead of us to do.”
Henry and Hannah Best led the Arrows’ attack with nine kills each, and Seitz added seven.
“It feels great [getting first TRAC title as coach],” said Antonio, a former Arrows player, “but I’m just really happy these girls are coming together at a time when we needed them to the most. This is a good group.
“We’ve been working lot on serving. It definitely showed tonight. They’re playing with a lot of confidence, and I’m excited to see where we can go [in tournament].”
Clay’s Blausey had a match-best 10 kills, and Sydnie Meinke added five for the Eagles.
Pivotal in Clay’s first league title since 2002 in the former Great Lakes League was the Eagles’ home win Sept. 13 against Notre Dame. Trailing 2-1 that night, Clay rallied to a 28-26 win in Game 4, then won the deciding fifth game 15-9.
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