After struggling to close out Ashland Crestview in the first two games, Monroeville had five match points in Game 3.
Unfortunately for the Eagles, this inability to finish off Game 3 led to a major downfall.
The Division III No. 20-ranked Cougars scored the last seven points of Game 3 and used the momentum to rally for a shocking 20-25, 18-25, 26-24, 25-17, 15-9 Firelands Conference victory over Div. IV No. 7 Monroeville on Tuesday.
"Crestview did not stop fighting and we kind of buckled under the pressure," Monroeville coach Kendra Snook said. "They got the momentum and we could not stop them then, especially on their home court."
Crestview improved to 17-4 overall and 11-2 in FC action while Monroeville fell to 17-3, 10-3. Crestview is tied with St. Paul (16-4, 11-2) atop the league standings with one match left for both teams on Thursday.
"I am just so proud of my kids to fight back there," Crestview coach Jody Ritchey said. "To be down two games and come back and beat them the last three games just shows the intensity my kids play with and that they believe in each other."
The Eagles took a 24-19 lead in Game 3 after an error from Crestview. From there, Natalie Restille registered a block and three straight errors by Monroeville drew the Cougars within a point. Bre Swank and Kenedi Goon each blasted a kill for Crestview and an error by Adrian Barman gave the Cougars new life.
"A lot of credit goes to Crestview and how they got us off our game," Snook said. "As a whole, I am disappointed because I thought my kids did not fight in that Game 3. We had a huge lead and the fact we could not get game point showed that we need to get a lot mentally tougher before going into tournament."
The renewed energy for Crestview was quite apparent in Game 4. Monroeville jumped out to a 5-2 lead on the strength of two kills and two blocks by Kylee Brooks, but the Cougars did not wait to respond. Crestview strung together nine of the next 10 points, capped by a block from Restille and two blocks from Kyla Brafford, to take an 11-6 lead. That prompted a timeout from Snook.
The Eagles responded and got within 12-11 after three straight errors by Crestview, but Monroeville could never quite take the lead. The Cougars consistently won two or three points at a time, only halted by a point by the Eagles here and there. Two more errors by Monroeville gave Crestview the fourth game.
"We stopped passing the ball," Snook said. "They were serving hard at us and we stopped passing the ball. We got out of system, which meant we were giving them a lot of easy shots. They have a bunch of big hitters, so when we are giving them a lot of free balls, it is free range on the net."
In Game 5, it was again the Cougars that thoroughly dominated the game. Autumn Bailey and Goon each registered a kill to start the game. Later, the Cougars won four straight points to take a two-point lead up to an 8-2 margin.
A kill by Monroeville's Kelsie Palmer and an error by Crestview got the Eagles within 9-4, but the level of play the Cougars showed in Game 5 was not to be matched. A kill from Swank pushed the lead to 13-5, before Monroeville showed a bit of life with three straight points. But, Swank put down her 10th and final kill, and an error by the Eagles gave Crestview the shocking victory.
"In volleyball, if you are out of system, you can not do a lot with the ball," Snook said. "You can't necessarily attack hard. I told the kids we should be fighting every single point. We were kind of back on our heels."
Ritchey thought the fact that her team was playing in its fourth five-game match this season — and second in four days — compared to Monroeville's second such match gave the Cougars an edge.
"I think it was in the back of my kids' mind,” she said. “They know they have to play point-for-point and game-for-game. You have to take it one point at a time and build momentum."
Monroeville came out from the start and controlled the pace of play in taking the opening two games. The Eagles took a 21-12 lead in Game 1 after winning seven straight points. Ritchey called timeout and her team responded. The Cougars got back within 22-19 after a pair of aces from Swank. But, a net violation, coupled with kills from Brooks and Maura Brown gave Monroeville the early lead.
Game 2 had a different flow to it, as Crestview stepped up its game in the early going. The Cougars won four consecutive points for a 10-6 lead, but that is when Monroeville took over. The Eagles reeled off 12 of the next 13 points and even stretched the run to 18-4 for a 24-14 lead. The Cougars did not go quietly, winning the next four points before Barman's kill gave Monroeville the seemingly commanding lead.
The Eagles controlled almost all of Game 3 as well. An error by Crestview gave Monroeville a 10-5 lead and later, a kill from Brooks pushed the Eagles' lead to 22-15. Restille and Swank swatted kills to help cut the lead to 22-19 before a Monroeville timeout. Palmer tallied a kill and an error by Crestview gave the Eagles the 24-19 lead that they just could not quite finish off.
Monroeville topped the Cougars back on Sept. 13 at home, 16-25, 25-20, 25-18, 25-16.
"We are definitely undersized compared to them," Snook said. "Their setter did a nice job of moving the ball around which then created a lot of seams in our block, which allowed them to score a lot more."
Restille topped Crestview with 14 kills to go with nine digs and three blocks. Goon backed her with 12 kills and nine digs while Swank added 10 kills, four aces, and three digs. Magey Shambre contributed 40 assists and 10 digs.
"I give a lot of credit to Ashland Crestview," Snook said. "Jody does a really nice job with those kids and has really got that program going. All the credit to them."
Brooks led the Eagles with 17 kills and three blocks while Brown had 11 kills and four blocks. Palmer added nine kills and four blocks, Camryn Hedrick tallied 39 assists, and Stacia Stieber contributed 35 digs.