The road to what it hopes will rank as one of the greatest two-year runs in Ohio high school volleyball history began much longer ago than last season for the
St. Ursula Academy (Toledo, Ohio)
girls volleyball team.
With a group of five freshmen playing prominent roles during the fall of 2008, the Arrows won the first of three consecutive Division I district championships and went on to win a state title last fall. Now with a senior-laden lineup, St. Ursula was 24-0 and a winner in 47 consecutive matches before beating Oregon Clay in a district semifinal Tuesday.
The Arrows are sixth in the
MaxPreps Xcellent 25 National Volleyball Rankings
"We work together really well," senior Erin Williams
said. "Most of us are seniors and we've been playing together for a long time. All of us are experienced and we all have a lot of high-level volleyball club experience. We work super hard, do a lot of tough drills and try to make each other better.
"There are so many good teams in Ohio, but we've just worked together well as a team and we all have the same goal."
Williams, a 5-foot-11 outside hitter, has been on varsity since her freshman season along with classmates Emma Romstadt
(libero), Madison Strall
(setter/right-side hitter), Madison Haupricht
(defensive specialist) and Cassidy Croci
(middle hitter). Senior Katie Felix
has been a contributor since her sophomore season.
Croci has verbally committed to play for New Hampshire, while Strall will play for Wheeling Jesuit and Haupricht will play at Ashland.
St. Ursula, which won its first state championship in 2004 and lost in a state final the next season, also has several underclassmen in key roles. Junior
is a 6-2 outside hitter who has received interest from numerous Division I colleges. Freshman Lauren Graves
(middle hitter) also has become a key player.
"We can come at teams from the right side or the left side, and we're probably hitting at about a .325 kill efficiency as a team," coach John Buck said. "We've got a good setter and good defense in the back. Most of my seniors have been starters since they were in their freshman years, so obviously they've been in the trenches."
St. Ursula, which hasn't lost a match since falling to perennial Cincinnati power Ursuline Academy on Sept. 18, 2010, had only one regular-season match go the maximum five games. The Arrows rallied to beat rival Central Catholic (Toledo) 25-18, 23-25, 13-25, 25-17, 15-9 on Sept. 8.
They haven't lost a Three Rivers Athletic Conference match since 2008.
"We have really great team chemistry, but I also think that we have very talented players in all areas, which helps," Romstadt said. "We've faced some challenges, but we've been able to push through those. It's been pretty similar to last year because we have a lot of strengths, and we've gained some new players which has helped us. We really haven't had any bumps in the road that we haven't been able to overcome."
Under Buck, the Arrows were 363-61 before Tuesday. The only key players lost to graduation from last year's team were setter Veronica Zimmerman, who is now playing for the University of Memphis, and defensive specialist Mariah Truscinski, who is playing for DePaul. In the state championship match last season, St. Ursula rallied after losing the first game to beat Dublin Coffman (Dublin) 15-25, 25-23, 26-24, 25-18.
"We lost the first game (in the state final), but I never had the feeling we were going to lose that match," Williams said. "I don't know what it was, but we just weren't going to lose. It was one of the most exciting experiences I've been a part of."
"Before last year it had been five years since we've been to (a state semifinal), but this program has been up there for a while," Buck said. "It was good for them to get back to the big stage last year. They know what it's like to be there and they understand what this program is about.
"There are an awful lot of similarities to last year's team, although we've made the adjustment to running a 6-2 offense. It's taken us some time to get used to running two setters on the floor, but we're starting to peak right and we're really playing at a high level."Jarrod Ulrey covers Central and Northern Ohio for MaxPreps. He has covered prep sports for ThisWeekSPORTS.com for 16 years and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.