LANCASTER, Ohio — There was nothing happy about this Halloween for the Lady Eagles.
The Eastern volleyball team had its magnificent 2012 season come to an end Wednesday night following a 25-21, 25-17, 25-16 setback to Shekinah Christian in a Division IV regional semifinal matchup at Lancaster High School.
Both the Lady Eagles (24-2) and Lady Flames (23-2) battled through 19 ties and 22 lead changes in the contest, but Eastern was never able to establish a lead greater than four points in the entire match — and that margin came in the first game.
Shekinah Christian, on the other hand, led by five points in Game 1 and eight points in Game 2 before claiming its largest lead of the match in Game 3 — a nine-point cushion. The straight-game decision allowed the Lady Flames — who were making their fifth regional appearance in school history — to secure just its second regional final berth.
Shekinah will face Pike Eastern at 2 p.m. Saturday in the regional final at Lancaster High School. Pike Eastern (26-0) defeated Newark Catholic (25-2) 25-15, 31-29, 25-21 in the first semifinal contest Wednesday night at LHS.
The Lady Eagles had win streaks of 22 matches and 30 games come to an end Wednesday night, and EHS volleyball coach Howie Caldwell was a bit down about seeing a possible repeat trip to state come to a halt afterwards.
“I don’t care what sport you play or what you do, you have to be focused. We didn’t have one of our better practices Tuesday before this game, and it carried over into tonight,” Caldwell said. “We didn’t bring our ‘A’ game, and it kind of takes away from what we have accomplished this year.
“We won 24 matches, we were sectional and district champs, we won the Athens Invitational and we went unbeaten in the TVC Hocking. We did do some positive things this year, but we didn’t play very well tonight. We jumped out to leads in all three games, but we couldn’t sustain it.”
The Lady Eagles were the aggressors early on, as EHS jumped out to leads of 4-0, 7-3 and 9-5. Shekinah, however, rallied to tie things at nine before taking its first lead of the night at 10-9.
Game 1 — which had seven ties and eight lead changes — then had ties at 10, 11, 12, 13, 14 and 17 before the Lady Flames established leads of 22-17 and 23-18. Eastern never came closer than three points the rest of the way as SCHS took a 1-0 match lead with a four-point triumph.
Game 2 featured 11 ties and 12 lead changes, and the last tie came at 14-all. Shekinah followed with an 8-1 surge for a 22-15 cushion, then closed things out with a small 3-2 run for a 2-0 match advantage.
Eastern led the finale 3-0, but the Lady Flames responded with six straight points for a 6-3 edge. Shekinah followed with a 10-5 surge for a 16-8 advantage, then closed out the match with a 9-8 run to wrap up the straight-game decision. It was also the only time this year that Eastern didn’t win a single game in any match.
Ally Hendrix led the EHS service attack with 13 points, followed by Maddie Rigsby with four points. Erin Swatzel and Jordan Parker both had three points apiece, while Gabby Hendrix and Kiki Osborne respectively rounded things out with two points and one point.
Parker led the net attack with 14 kills, followed by Rigsby with 10 kills and Swatzel with two kills. Osborne and Katie Keller also added one kill each to the setback. Swatzel had a team-high three blocks, while Rigsby and Keller chipped in two blocks apiece. Osborne also had one block.
Ally Hendrix led the passing game with 30 assists, while Gabby Hendrix led the defense with 34 digs. Rigsby and Parker added 25 and 24 digs, respectively, and both Paige Cline and Cierra Turley had two digs each.
Krista Shrock led the Shekinah serving attack with 14 points, followed by Annelise Rohrer with nine points and Michelle Byars with seven points. Tori Yoder added six points to the winning cause, while Bridget Troyer and Ashley Gingerich closed things out with respective point totals of five and four.
Shekinah Christian is 1-0 alltime in regional finals, as the Lady Flames qualified for the state tournament back in 1995.
It was the final volleyball match for Eastern seniors Gabrielle Hendrix, Kiana Osborne and Ally Hendrix in the Green and White, as well as manager Rachael Markworth.
Despite the final outcome, Caldwell was more than praiseworthy of that quartet for what they had meant to this program over the years.
“The last two years, this group of seniors own a 51-3 overall record. They’ve gone unbeaten in league and twice played at regionals,” Caldwell said. “That’s pretty remarkable for any group of kids, and a lot of people would absolutely die to be in that kind of position. We’re sad now, but these kids have absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. There are more good memories than bad.”