PDT Sports Writer
LANCASTER — The break-though for the Eastern volleyball team came last season when the Eagles defeated Newark Catholic and Plain City Shekinah Christian to qualify for their first-ever state Final Four.
Eastern faced the same road this year and while the Eagles were able to sweep the Flames in Thursday’s Division IV Regional semifinal, they were unable to avoid a sweep to the hands of the Green Wave 25-19, 25-16, 25-19 in Saturday’s final at Lancaster High School.
“We just got beat a quicker offense,” Eastern coach Janet Day said. “We don’t see that a lot in our area. We don’t see the quick sets and so the blockers were lost a few times where the ball was going (because) they have a lot of power at the net, we lost to a very good team.”
Newark Catholic controlled the tempo of the match from the onset, never trailing by more than a point in either of the three sets. The Green Wave led by as many as seven points in the opening set, 12 in the second and seven in the finale.
“We just didn’t pass as well and when we don’t pass well, Jenny (Keppler) has got to really chase down the passes,” Day said. “She really didn’t get into the rhythm of setting, I don’t think, and it always just starts with that pass. We win with good passing or you lose with not passing the ball well.”
The Eagles’ best shot of making a late charge came in the third set when they rallied on the strength of six-straight service points from Madison Knipp. However, Newark Catholic countered by capturing 10 of the set’s final 14 points to close out the match.
With a sizeable crowd dressed in green and white, Day admitted it was a struggle to get her message across and for her players to communicate with each other.
“They could not even hear me,” Day said. “…In time outs, I had to scream because they couldn’t hear me. It’s like that every year so we expected it.”
The Green Wave move on to their 18th appearance into the state tournament and first since 2008. As for Eastern, the loss of four seniors from last year’s team did not deter the Eagles from making another regional appearance. They will lose Bailey Helton, who finished with 14 kills, and Cassidy Roney, out since last week with a lower-body injury, to graduation.
Eastern was led statistically by Helton, Knipp (16 digs, two aces), Keppler (18 assists) and Carson Roney (eight digs, four blocks, five kills).
Cody Leist can be reached at 353-3101, ext. 294, or firstname.lastname@example.org. For breaking sports news, follow Cody on Twitter @CodyLeist.
Eastern — 19 16 19
Newark Catholic — 25 25 25
Records — Eastern 25-2; Newark Catholic 24-4.