Cardington’s most successful volleyball season in school history ended in the district finals on Saturday, as they couldn’t overcome a tough Johnstown team at Mount Vernon Nazarene University.
Johnstown was able to take advantage of some timely scoring runs in picking up the 25-16, 24-26, 25-18, 25-21 win over the Pirates.
“Momentum at this level is very huge,” said Pirate coach Ryan Treese. “Especially with how young our team is. We fought back. I’m proud. Getting here was the most important thing.”
Not lost on the coach was how much his team improved over the course of the season, comparing Saturday’s match with the Johnnies to a 2-0 loss to them early in the season.
“We played them and lost with scores of 20 and 15,” he said. “The growth of the program in general is astronomical.”
Two extended scoring runs by Johnstown were the difference in the first game. Trailing 6-5, the Johnnies got seven straight points from Brooke Barb to take a lead they would not relinquish. Then, four points from Bailey Stranges turned a 14-10 lead into an eight-point advantage as Johnstown pulled away to take a 1-0 advantage.
Cardington would battle back in the second game, though. Three points from Liz Long and one each by Kyleigh Bonnette and Hannah Wickline staked the team to an 8-4 lead in the early going. However, Johnstown would gradually battle back and took a 17-15 lead after two points from Barb.
The Pirates would rally, though. They took a 20-19 lead on two points by Izzy Wickline. With the score tied at 22, Bonnette tallied a score to give her team the advantage. Then, with a 25-24 advantage after a defensive point, Cardington got a successful serve from Cadie Long to claim the win and tie the match.
A fast start by Johnstown to the third game put them in front 11-4, but the Pirates rallied behind one point from Jadine Mills and five from Liz Long to get within a 14-13 margin. Unfortunately for the team, they would not be able to get over the hump, as the Johnnies were able to tally enough points on their serve to slowly pull back away and take a 2-1 lead going into the fourth set.
That decisive game played out much the same as the third. With the score tied at three, Johnstown got four points from Courtney White to jump in front. They’d increase their advantage to a 19-12 margin, but five points from Bonnette got the Pirates right back into the game.
However, the Johnnies were able to do enough to stave off Cardington. Leading 23-20, they surrendered a point to Mills, but then got a stop to reach game point. One serve by Stranges and the game and match were over, with Cardington’s season ending at 20-6.
Treese has high hopes for the future, as his squad returns the vast majority of its contributors. While the one he will lose to graduation, Hannah Wickline, will be a tough one to replace, as she was named the Division III Central District Player of the Year, he noted that his players plan to continue the positive momentum the program has been building.
“We lose one person on the entire roster,” he said. “The last thing they said was that we’re going to break the record next year and the year after that.”
Rob Hamilton can be reached at 419-946-3010, ext. 1807. Connect with him on Twitter at @SportsMCS