PDT Sports Writer
LANCASTER — Janet Day had a hard time fighting back the tears after Saturday’s Division IV Regional Final volleyball match at Lancaster High School.
In the fourth-straight Elite Eight appearance for the Eastern senior class (27-0), the Eagles finally clinched their first Final Four berth in school history as they defeated Plain City Shekinah Christian in four sets.
“I’m excited,” Day said. “I really did think this team could do it, I thought it back in the summer, I saw this team (Shekinah Christian) play in the summer and I was impressed with them then. But I knew we were more of the power team at the net.
“I’ve told my girls that we’ve been that team. We’ve been that small, quick, defensive team and been beat by bigger teams because they were powerhouses. Today, we were the powerhouse.”
While Eastern’s record stays unblemished, the Eagles’ 75-set winning streak came to an end in the third set. Day admitted the loss was a relief in the long term as her team will play the noon match Friday against Kidron Central Christian.
The Flames (23-3) gave Eastern all it could handle throughout the match. The Eagles claimed the first two sets with wins of 25-23 and 26-24 but in both sets, Shekinah Christian held leads that made the fans of the Brown and White nervous.
In the opening set, the Flames took an 8-2 lead before Eastern rattled off 13 of the next 19 points to take its first lead of the afternoon at 15-14 and never trail for the remainder of the set. Shekinah Christian had a 24-23 lead late in the second but a defensive stand and a pair of points off the serve of Brittany Mounts, who had a team-high 45 assists, kept the streak alive.
“Those seniors have so much tournament experience, they have so much club experience,” Day said. “They’ve been playing this game (for) a long time and they know how to come back.”
The Eagles were put in their stiffest test in the season in the third set. Trailing 24-18, Eastern went on a 5-0 run to make it 24-23. But on Bailey Helton’s fifth-straight serve, the Flames broke her serve and the streak.
“I don’t think we thought about losing that set,” Day said. “We just came out in that next set and talked about let’s put it away here. This is our (set) and we’re going to put this one away right here.”
Shekinah Christian took a 6-2 lead in the fourth. But a 13-7 run gave the Eagles their final lead change en route to winning the championship.
Miranda Clark led Eastern with 23 kills to go along with her four blocks. Casey Howard had six blocks and Rhyanna Day’s 26 were both team highs in their respective categories. Eastern had a 97 percent serve success rate for the match.
Cody Leist can be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 294, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Shekinah Christian 23 24 25 19
Eastern 25 26 23 25