It was Monroeville that took the momentum, winning eight of the last 12 points in Game 3.
From there, the Eagles dominated the rest of the match in a 22-25, 25-23, 25-21, 25-9 Firelands Conference victory on Tuesday at the Monroeville Athletic Complex between two longtime Division IV powerhouses and league rivals.
"I thought we started to make plays defensively that we were not making in Game 1 and 2," Monroeville coach Kendra Snook said. "When you graduate your three defensive players — that has been our focus all preseason. We know we have to continue to get better at that."
The match was each team's season opener, something that was not lost on Snook.
"We talked about it a little bit last night," Snook said. "We could not let the moment get too big. You have a long preseason and now it is the first match of the season. You have the hitters and excitement and you throw in your biggest rivalry, too."
A serving error by Monroeville tied the third game at 17, but the Eagles stayed focused. A error by the Flyers, followed by kills from Kelsie Palmer and Kylee Brooks gave Monroeville a 20-17 lead.
Later, St. Paul was whistled for a four-hit error and Braylee Wise served up one of her two aces to push the lead to four points — the first time all match either team had led by more than three points. Maura Brown and Lydia Landoll each cracked kills to push the Eagles ahead.
Monroeville extended the momentum in Game 4 and never looked back. The Eagles ran off the first eight points behind the serving of Adrian Barman. The senior has taken on the position of libero after four-year starter Stacia Stieber graduated. Barman was one of the Eagles' top hitters last year and finished with 40 digs and two aces on the night.
"We talked about it at the beginning of the year and talked to her about it at the end of last year," Snook said. "It is what is going to be best for the team. I probably have one of the hardest hitting liberos in the state. She warms up in the front row and we are ready to put her in the front row if we need her. She has been excelling so well defensively."
An error by Monroeville got St. Paul on the board in Game 4, but the Eagles never relented. Palmer blasted two more kills, and kills from Brooks, Yoder, and Camryn Hedrick gave the Eagles a 13-3 lead. Later, Brooks added the last two of her match-high 21 kills to seal the win for Monroeville.
"I think we lost some aggressiveness that we came out with in Game 1," St. Paul coach Nancy Miller said. "I was very proud of the girls with how we came out. We have to work at being more aggressive throughout the whole match. I think our hitters have to do a better job of putting the ball away."
The victory did not come easy for the Eagles. Monroeville did jump out to a three-point lead three times on St. Paul, the last after an error made it 10-7. But, the Lady Flyers, playing without four starters because of injuries, did not fade.
Three straight points, capped off of a kill from Stevi Ward gave St. Paul a lead it did not relinquish. Monroeville tied the game at 16 apiece, but the Flyers opened a three-point margin themselves three times. Brooks put down a kill to draw the Eagles within 23-22, but Ward and Holly Powers each recorded a kill to give St. Paul the early lead.
"I think we came out with a lot of nerves and St. Paul came out on fire," Snook said. "I talked to the kids after the first game about having five missed serves and four hitting errors. We were out of position defensively. I don't know how much of that was nerves."
St. Paul had the opportunity to seize a commanding lead, but faltered late in Game 2. The back-and-forth action was close before Monroeville grabbed a 20-18 lead with three consecutive points. St. Paul fought back, getting a big block from Presley Stang and an ace from Josie Skinn to take a 22-20 lead.
Despite having a free ball from the Eagles, St. Paul could not convert, which led to four straight points by Monroeville. Brooke Houck posted a kill for the Flyers, but Brooks responded for the Eagles, tying the match.
"Monroeville is huge up front," Miller said. "I think they did a great job of continuing to pound the ball at us. We did not block as well as what I think we are capable of."
St. Paul is currently without senior Anna Lukasko, and sophomores Megan Liebold, Karlie Rudolph, and Sarah Matlack because of injuries.
"I am very proud of them right now with the adversity we are facing," Miller said. "I think the kids we have put in positions that they have never played before are doing a phenomenal job overall. I think we can still do better."
Megan Hammersmith paced the Lady Flyers with 11 kills while Houck tallied 10 kills. Powers added nine kills, Kennedy Stang had 32 digs, Presley Stang contributed 22 digs, and Dyllan Knoll recorded 39 assists. Skinn served for nine points with two aces and Knoll served for four points with two aces.
"I think we can maintain a more consistent play throughout," Miller said. "Some of the unforced errors on serve receive that we gave up, we should not be giving those up. We are a better passing team than that."
Palmer added 10 kills and five blocks for Monroeville, who also got nine kills from Landoll. Yoder had 13 digs and eight kills while Hannah Lyons with 11 digs. Hedrick, who finished with the third-most assists in Ohio history in a season last year, opened her senior campaign with 45 assists to go with 16 digs.
"We still have a lot of work to do," Snook said. "Game 4, we looked good. We were firing on all cylinders there. We were not missing serves and we were passing well."