By John Bombatch
LEBANON — It’s hard to beat any team three times in a single season, and Southwestern Buckeye League foes Bellbrook and Monroe were well aware of that, going into Tuesday night’s Division II high school sectional tournament game at Lebanon High School.
During the regular season, Bellbrook won in three sets at their place; then needed four sets to record a win at Monroe. On a neutral floor, Bellbrook had to rally several times before claiming the 25-23, 25-21, 25-15 win.
“They’re a really good solid team, they put a huge block up against us — they have girls who are 6-foot-3, 6-foot and 6-foot — and it’s a league opponent. We knew this would be a tough match for us,” Bellbrook coach Lynzee Johnson explained. “It’s hard to beat a good team three times in a row, so I’m really proud of my girls.
“We just needed to survive.”
The sixth seeded Hornets came out aggressively in the opening set. Monroe (13-11) jumped out in front, 3-0, and only relinquished the lead twice.
Unfortunately, the second time they gave up the lead was when Abby Crotty crushed a left-to-right smash to put the no. 1-seeded Golden Eagles ahead, 24-23. On the ensuing match point, Crotty then bashed another cross-court kill to give Bellbrook the come-from-behind win.
The second set had Monroe out in front 16-15, only to see Bellbrook close things out with a 10-5 run for the 25-21 win.
Finally, the third set was all Bellbrook. The Golden Eagles never trailed in the 25-15 match clinching win.
Kayla Foote led the Hornets with seven kills, two service aces and a block. Tall hitters Lizzy and Taylor Mooers finished with four blocks and seven combined kills.
“We started off our gameplan the right way, and we had them worried. They needed a timeout early, and we had them against the wall. But then I think Bellbrook got comfortable, and at the same time, we just ran outta gas,” Monroe coach Drew Naber said. “They’re a good team, so they kept fighting back.”
Naber agreed that it’s tough taking on a team for the third time.
“We gave it all we got, but when you are up against a 21-2 team like Bellbrook, you know you’re in for a challenge. They’re a very good team,” Naber added.
Unofficially, Crotty led everybody with 17 kills, a service ace and a block. Kira Merkle finished with 11 kills and a block, Mara Neal added eight blocks of her own, and Sara Rogers added four kills and a block.
The Golden Eagles now advance to Saturday’s 3 p.m. sectional final contest at Lebanon High, where they’ll take on third seeded Kettering Alter.