Saturday against Wellsville, Monroeville seemingly did everything right while keeping the Tigers off balance.
The Division IV No. 9-ranked Eagles rolled to a 25-10, 25-11, 25-11 victory in a regional championship match at Uniontown Lake High School on Saturday over the No. 12 Tigers in just 55 minutes.
“The way our tournament run has gone, I never would have guessed it would go this way,” Monroeville coach Kendra Snook said. “I was expecting another brutal match. We came out and played very well.”
The Eagles improved to 24-3 overall and will face defending state champion No. 3 New Bremen (22-4) in the state semifinals at 2 p.m. on Thursday at the Nutter Center on the campus of Wright State University.
“We were in system,” Snook said. “Camryn Hedrick did a nice job of getting the ball and mixing it up between our hitters. Our hitters played well.”
Monroeville controlled Wellsville for nearly the entire match, never trailing after the fifth point of any game.
“I knew we had not seen anything as dynamic or as diverse as Monroeville was,” Wellsville coach Dan McKinstry said. “We did not have any answer for (Kylee Brooks). We have size, but we did not have the size to compete.”
The Eagles took a 9-6 lead in Game 1 after three straight points, but the Tigers (25-2) got within two points after a Monroeville service error. From there, the Eagles ran off the next six points for a 15-7 lead. The run included two kills each from Brooks and freshman Graisyn Yoder.
An error by the Eagles only stopped their momentum briefly as they won the next nine points to take a 24-8 lead. Continued balanced hitting by Monroeville allowed setter Hedrick to balance the offense perfectly. A kill by Brooks gave the Eagles the opening game.
“Our girls always seem to come out strong with a lot of energy,” Snook said. “Sometimes that makes me nervous that we had plateaued. With how much community support — we had with the whole town of Monroeville here and the student section so loud — that kept our kids going and kept the drive of the kids there.”
Game 2 was nearly a repeat of the first game. The Eagles won four of the first five points and later, scored eight straight points to take a 5-4 lead to a 13-4 margin. Adrian Barman tallied five aces and a kill in the run.
“Adrian did a nice job of putting it in the spot that my assistant coach gave her,” Snook said. “She had a nice flow and Wellsville was unable to pass it. She did a nice job of getting us that lead.”
Monroeville continued to win points in bunches, not letting Wellsville put a run together. The Eagles also shut down Wellsville’s top hitter, 6-foot-1 Kiki Perry.
“We knew they had (Perry) that tore Newbury apart in the regional semifinals,” Snook said. “She had a ton of kills and a ton of blocks against them. Our main focus was to try to make sure we got in front of her and we did a nice job getting our hands up.”
A kill by Kelsie Palmer and an error by the Tigers gave Monroeville the commanding lead.
“We told the girls that Wellsville was not here by luck,” Snook said. “They were here because they were good and they had lost once before here. We had to stay focused.”
Looking to close out the match in three, the Eagles started the third game just as well as it played the first two games. Wellsville was within 6-5, but yet another run by Monroeville put the game out of reach. This time it was a string of eight consecutive points for a 14-5 lead.
“Serve reception has been our forte all year,” McKinstry said. “We really struggled with that today. Some of that was Monroeville’s serving.”
The Tigers got within 17-10 at one point, but seven more points in a row - including four aces and a kill by Yoder - drew Monroeville to match point. Perry put down one of her seven kills to extend the match, but Maura Brown’s kill sent the Eagles and their crowd into a frenzy.
“We do not consider Graisyn a freshman anymore,” Snook said. “I have coached her a couple years in club and she has been playing up in club. She is strong and she works hard. She is going to continue to get better.”
Stacia Steiber is one of just three seniors on the team. She is the only link to the Monroeville team that made the state semifinals in 2015.
“We played really aggressive today,” Steiber said. “I think most of the time, we were in system. We had to focus because Wellsville was a good team.”
Yoder connected on 20 of 20 serves, smacking six aces to go with 11 kills. Brooks had 11 kills and three blocks. Barman nailed 16 of 16 serves, registering six aces, six kills, and nine digs.
“We really came through,” Yoder said. “We really shut down (Perry). Watching the seniors gave me the confidence to play better.”
Steiber had 20 digs, Palmer had six kills, Brown contributed five kills and three blocks, and Hedrick finished with 37 assists.
The community support from Monroeville stood out to Snook.
“We completely sold out of our 250 presale tickets and went into another roll,” Snook said. “We travel well. This community supports all the sports teams well. I knew they would be here today.”