EATON TWP. — Avon’s six seniors gave their team a chance at advancing to a fourth-straight district final, but it wasn’t meant to be as the third-seeded Eagles dropped a 22-25, 25-18, 25-15, 20-25, 15-13 heartbreaker to second-seeded Magnificat at Midview High School on Tuesday night.
The Blue Streaks, ranked ninth in the final Division I state coaches poll, improved to 18-6 and will face top-seeded St. Joseph Academy after the Jaguars beat fourth-seeded Olmsted Falls, 25-12, 25-9, 29-27.
Avon, 14th in the coaches’ poll, finished 20-4 on the season, capping a four-year stretch for seniors Sydney Stone, Maddy Jerdonik, Meghan Waters, Gillian Romanchok, Katie Sopko and Katie Koziarz, who went a combined 84-16 with four trips to the district tournament.
“That second and third set, obviously we were down and the seniors and everyone knew we were not going to lose that (fourth set),” said Romanchok, who finished with a team-high 15 kills. “Whether it was the people on the bench, people in the back row, in the front row — we were all in it together to keep things rolling in that fourth set.”
The Eagles came out flying high and won the opening set. They got a pair of kills from Stone, Sopko and Koziarz, with the score at 23-22 following one of the Koziarz kills. A Magnificat setting error and a back-row kill from libero Alex Laboy pushed Avon to the win.
The Blue Streaks got big service runs in the second and third sets, sending the Eagles to the brink of elimination before Avon showed fight, running out to a 13-5 lead early in the fourth set.
The Eagles got the serve back on a Romanchok kill, sending Sopko to the service line, where she ripped off seven straight points. Romanchok had two more kills and a block-kill to go with a pair of Magnificat unforced errors, a kill from Jamie Villwock and an ace by Sopko.
Magnificat didn’t get closer than five points the rest of the way as Romanchok added three more kills and another block-kill, while Koziarz (nine kills) picked up two more kills, setting up the final race to 15.
“Gillian is unreal,” Eagles coach Julie Bendzuck said of Romanchok. “The growth that she’s made, I’m just so proud of her. The seniors as a whole, I just told them that no team has a walk to the district championship in our district. Nobody is going to get that easy and they got to experience that three out of their four years.
“Tonight, to go down to the wire with a team that’s ranked higher in the state than you and probably has a few more talented kids than you, there is nothing more that I could have asked.”
The final set was a tight with neither team leading by more than two points throughout.
The Eagles had one-point leads on three occasions. A pair of Blue Streak attack errors and a Romanchok kill gave Avon its final lead of the year at 11-10.
Mags went up for good on a pair of Eagles’ errors and a kill by Elizabeth Ward (13 kills) for a 14-12 lead. Romanchok kept the match alive with a block-kill, but a cross-court shot by Avon went just wide, sending the Blue Streaks to the district title game.
“First game we came out strong. The second and third game, we kinda went down, but the fourth and fifth games were the reason you play this game,” Romanchok said. “Being able to play with all the seniors all through the years of high school, it’s really special to every single one of us.”
Magnificat 3, Avon 1
KILLS – (A) Gillian Romanchok 15, Katie Koziarz 9, Katie Sopko 7, Lea Morris 4, Sydney Stone 4, Jamie Villwock 3; (M) Cadence Shae 15, Elizabeth Ward 13, Ava Montgomery 13, Caroline Kucia 11.
ASSISTS – (A) Maddy Jerdonik 39; (M) Mary Claire Frantz 53.
ACES – (A) Katie Sopko 3, Meghan Waters 1, Alex Laboy 1; (M) Abbey Havrilla 3.
BLOCK-KILL – (A) Villwock 4, Romanchok 3, Sopko 2, Koziarz 2; (M) Montgomery 2, Ward 2.