Local Sports

Saturday, November 09, 2013

State Volleyball: Versailles defeats Upper Sandusky
By JAMIE BAKER

Staff Writer

DAYTON - There's no doubt, Upper Sandusky went down swinging.

Three Rams players reached double digits in kills but Versailles' big hitters, Amanda Winner and Lauren Bruns, were too much to overcome Friday afternoon as Upper Sandusky dropped a 25-22, 23-25, 25-22, 25-19 decision to the Tigers in the Division III state semifinals at the Nutter Center.

The win earned Versailles (26-2) a spot in today's 3 p.m. Division III state title game against Gates Mills Gilmour Academy (22-6). Upper Sandusky, which was making its first appearance at state, finished its season at 25-3.

The Rams, who entered the tournament with an 11-match win streak, fell behind in all four games.

"We've done that before. I think we just struggled a little bit with their pin to pin offense," Upper Sandusky coach Matthew McConnaughey said. "In all honesty, I just think we faced a better team today.

"We just could not get our block where we needed it to and it made it hard for (libero) Jenna (Holly) to play defense when the block is not there. They just moved the ball too well. There was not a lot of weaknesses we could exploit."

The Tigers made very few mistakes in the first game. Lauren Bruns, a 6-foot-1 junior, slammed six kills and Amanda Winner, a 5-9 senior hitter who will play at the University of Findlay, added four as the Tigers won 25-22.

Upper Sandusky trailed 21-15 late in the game before rallying to tie it at 22-22 on Kalene Johnson's tip. But Versailles got a kill and block from Christa Puthoff and an ace on game-point by Kristin Langston to put the game away.

The attacks from Bruns and Amanda Winner on the outside aided Versailles' momentum. Bruns finished the match with 21 kills while Winner added 20.

"On paper, Upper Sandusky was much taller than us. But Amanda and Lauren play about 6-3," said Versailles coach Karla Frilling. "We have to feed the monkeys some games and this was a game for the monkeys."

The Rams did steal some of the momentum in the second game. They neutralized Versailles' big hitters to a degree as Jenna Holly came up big with 10 digs in the 25-23 win.

Taylor Graboski had six kills and Jessi Holly four in the second game while setter Emma Smith was perfect setting with 12 assists.

Knotting the match at a game apiece gave the Rams a little confidence and a chance to breathe.

"I think we got comfortable at that point, but they were always keeping us on our toes," said Graboski, who will continue her volleyball career at Valparaiso. "There was no time we could ever relax for a few points because they were such a good team. At this level you never get a chance to relax. They were the best team we've played so far."

Versailles ratcheted up the pressure in Games 3 and 4.

The Rams and Tigers were tied 12-12 in the third game when Versailles went on a 6-2 spree, sparked by a pair of kills and a block from Puthoff.

Upper Sandusky closed to 23-22 at one point, but a Bruns kill and a perfectly placed ball from Taylor Winner found the corner of the floor on game-point.

Despite being down two games to one, McConnaughey knew his Rams weren't ready to shut it down.

"As long as they're still breathing," McConnaughey said gesturing to Graboski and Jenna Holly sitting next to him in the post-match press conference, "I think we have a chance.

"I have great girls with a ton of heart. We didn't lay down out there, we competed the whole time. Every time we were in a five-set match this season we pulled it out."

The Rams fell behind 18-11 in Game 4. They closed to 20-17 on Graboski's team-leading 18th kill of the day but could get no closer in a 25-19 loss that ended the match.

With nine of 10 players returning, the Rams aren't ruling out at a return trip to Dayton next season.

"I don't think we've seen their full potential. We have great talent, we have great girls. I definitely think we're going to have a great year next year," McConnaughey said.

But it's the loss of Graboski, a senior, that will hurt.

Graboski is not only one of the most talented players in the state, her leadership and her presence have been key to the best volleyball season in Upper Sandusky school history.

"I always laugh when people say to me, 'Well, you're only losing one senior.' That's like the Justice League losing Superman," McConnaughey said. "Taylor is more than just a normal human. She has done a great job in our program. She's played her heart out in every single match. She's the heart of our team.

"She's the one who supports her teammates and lifts them up and she's one of the goofiest people on the planet. They're going to miss that and I'm going to miss that, too."



UPPER SANDUSKY (25-3)

KILLS: Taylor Graboski 18, Jessi Holly 14, Molly Owens 12, Kalene Johnson 3, Emma Smith 2, Ali Roeder 1. HITTING: Graboski 39-49, Jessi Holly 39-43, Smith 5-6, Roeder 3-3, Owens 23-26, Johnson 19-26. ASSISTS: Smith 39, Graboski 1, Jessi Holly 1, Johnson 1, Maddie Bianchi 1, Jenna Holly 1. DIGS: Graboski 14, Jenna Holly 25, Bianchi & Smith 11, Jessi Holly 8, Johnson 5, Owens 4, Ceidyer Niederkohr 3, Roeder 1. BLOCKS: Graboski & Jessi Holly 2, Smith, Roeder, Owens, Johnson 1. ACES: Jenna Holly 2, Bianchi & Niederkohr 1.

VERSAILLES (26-2)

KILLS: Lauren Bruns 21, Amanda Winner 20, Christa Puthoff 7, Brett Bey & Taylor Winner 5. ASSISTS: Rachel Kremer 52. ACES: Kremer 5, Kristin Langston 2. DIGS: A. Winner 17, Puthoff 15, Kremer & Kristin Shimp 10. BLOCKS: Bey 4, Puthoff 4.

Baker: 419-427-8409,

jamiebaker@thecourier.com


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