OLD WASHINGTON — There’s an old saying that all good things must come to an end.
Unfortunately, Saturday’s Division IV, East District championship was that point for the remarkable season put together by the Toronto volleyball team.
The Red Knights hung with undefeated, top-seeded Shenandoah for most of the first set inside the Buckeye Trail High School gym, but once the Zeps gained momentum, it was difficult for Toronto (23-2) to claw it back for any a long period of time until the rest of the way.
The Zeps, now 25-0, pulled ahead late in the first set for a 25-23 win, then closed out regional play by winning the second and third sets by scores of 25-13 and 25-15 to win the district title over Knights for the second year in a row and their third straight title overall.
“It’s been a great season” Toronto head coach Lori Lynn Jackson said. “Shenandoah is a really good team, they’re undefeated. Finishing 23-2 is also pretty good. We have a lot to be proud of.”
The first set was point for point all the way to a 21-21 tie late before the Zeps scored three straight points to pull ahead and close out the set before No. 3 seed Toronto could rally enough to extend .
In the second set, Shenandoah took a 10-5 lead, but after a Jackson timeout, Toronto clawed back to within 12-10. That was as close as it got, though, as the Zeps went on another run to pull ahead 17-10 and ended up scoring 13 of the last 16 points to take a 2-0 lead in the game.
After the Knights took an early lead in the third set, trying to keep the match going, the Zeps once again went on to lead 13-6. Again, after a timeout, Toronto rallied briefly to pull within 16-12, but from there Shenandoah scored six straight points to take command for good and close out the match with a 25-15 win in the set.
“The girls came out and went toe-to-toe with them in the first set,” Jackson said. “I’m really proud of how they came out and played and stayed together and went point for point with them. They were still confident in the second set. There was a rotation that we got stuck in and I feel like at that point it was hard for us to go back. Once there was that big gap, they had all the momentum on their side.
“Our girls still tried. I think we put a lot of pressure on Hannah (Dobbs) and Andrea (Reeves) … (Shenandoah) was expecting the ball to go to Hannah and Andrea was giving it to Hannah and they were reading it.
“Our girls still looked confident between the second and third sets. They didn’t give up. Shenandoah is a really good team, they’re 25-0 for a reason.”
For the Red Knights, Andrea Reeves had 26 assists, 11 digs, three blocks and three kills, Hannah Dobbs had 19 kills and 21 digs, Ashton Thomas had seven blocks and three kills, Michelle Anderson had 27 digs, Kali Anderson had seven digs, five kills and two blocks, Jayna Reeves had three digs, a kill and a block, Grace Rex contributed six digs, Riley Fisher eight digs, Tatum Derrington four digs and Emma Parello three digs.
Toronto’s defeat certainly wasn’t for lack of effort.
“Andrea got hit hard in the face, but no one was taking her out of that game, Callie rolled her ankle yesterday and wrapped it up and played out there, Tatum hurt her elbow and was struggling for the first two sets,” Jackson said. “These kids battled through it and wanted to be out there on that court. They left everything out there on the court, gave everything they had.”
The Red Knights will be leaving six seniors from the team that had a 20-0 regular season and made its second straight OVAC and district final appearances. The group of Dobbs, Reaves, Fisher, Thomas and Calley and Michelle Anderson won more than 40 games combined in their junior and senior years.
“I’ve been coaching for 20 years and it’s a really tough group to leave,” Jackson said. “Over the last two years, they are 43-7 overall. It’s hard to see a group like them, they are a group of great athletes, great kids and great leaders on and off the court.
“I don’t have a biological child on this team, but everyone on the court is like my child. I am so proud of them, every single one of them. I’m proud of their growth from one game to the next, their pride, their athleticism, their ability. The biggest thing I will remember about this team is the pride.
“They set the bar, they set the legacy for future teams. We’re graduating an incredible group, but we’ve got three of their younger sisters in the program, we’ve got girls coming back, they can carry the legacy that this group has set.
“These girls have set the bar for the future of this program.”
Shenandoah will face Berlin Hiland in the Region 15 semifinals Thursday at Pickerington North.