By TOM HENDRIXSON
FINDLAY -- It was the toughest test yet in the tournament for the Celina volleyball team, but the Bulldogs showed the kind of determination it takes to be champions in winning the District Championship in a tough five game match against Bowling Green.
Celina won the match, 25-13, 25-20, 23-25, 19-25, 15-9 and it will be the first trip to the regional tournament for the Green and White since 2002.
The Lady Bulldogs began the afternoon at Liberty-Benton High School looking like they were going to cruise to their fourth straight tournament win, after taking out St. Marys, Van Wert, and Shawnee last week.
Celina was dominating at the net in game one. Led by Kylie Dorsten and Betsy Hone with four apiece, the Bulldogs chalked up nine kills, and sent back six Bobcat shots with blocks at the net for defensive points as well. Bowling Green made it a little easier for the Celina blowout in game one with nine unforced errors.
The second game was more of the same with 12 kills at the net, paced by Liz Homan with four. The Bulldogs jumped out early with leads of 5-1, and 9-3, but in an indication of what was to come, the Bobcats started chipping away at the lead and actually narrowed the margin to 21-20. A net violation on Bowling Green was followed by an excellent two-handed tap shot by Hone that found the floor untouched, and back-to-back kills from Homan and Cenzie Yoder closed out game two, 25-20. Celina was one game away from a three game sweep and a trip to the Ontario Regional, but the Bobcats were going to go quietly. Bowling Green, which matched the Bulldogs' season record at 20-5 despite losing to Celina earlier in the year, beat Western Buckeye League champion Ottawa-Glandorf to reach the district final.
All seemed to go well in the early going of the third game with Celina jumping out to a 9-4 advantage on the strength of seven straight points off the serve of Lindsay Scheer.
However, a nice dink shot for a kill from Crystal Augsburger stopped that run and began BG's comeback.
It was a see-saw battle for the rest of the game, but the Bobcats were usually trading three or four points off their serve to one or two for Celina and the gap slowly narrowed.
The lead was 17-13 after a spectacular play by Hone that saw the senior co-captain sprinting beyond the backline to chase down a ball. It was Celina's last chance to keep the point alive after two previous touches, but the two fisted, over the shoulder hit soared high over the net and over the heads of the stunned Bobcats to land just inside their baseline for an amazing point that brought the sizeable and vocal Celina crowd to their feet.
A four-point run off the serve of Katie Stoots tied the game at 17-all, then following two Bulldog points, another four-point run gave the Bobcats their first lead of the day at 21-19. A few moments later a kill from Yoder tied the score again at 23-23, but Kathy Bibler recorded back-to-back kills to keep her team in the hunt with a 25-23 win.
Now it was Bowling Green that was attacking the net and keeping its opponents on their heels as the Bobcats threw down 10 kills in game four, while Celina's offense couldn't seem to get organized. The Bulldogs committed 10 unforced errors to contribute to their own demise during the 25-19 loss in game four.
Game five, to decide who would advance to the regionals, is a 15-point game, giving the team with a fast start a big advantage. Celina came out firing to take the early momentum as Homan slammed home a kill, follow by a nice tap shot from Dorsten that couldn't be returned to give the Bulldogs a 2-0 lead. With Kelly Adams still serving, the Bobcats committed three unforced errors to up the count to 5-0.
The talented team from Bowling Green battled back to 8-6, but two kills from Yoder, sandwiched around an unforced error, put the Green and White up by five again, 11-6.
The two clubs traded points on the next four serves, but with the score standing at 13-8 Homan slammed a shot to the floor to make it 14-8 and put Celina within a point of victory.
An unforced error prolonged the game one more serve, but Homan, a junior co-captain, sealed the win with a slam that went untouched to the back corner of the court and the celebration began for the Green and White.
"I'm so glad that we came out strong (in game 5)," commented an elated Bulldog head coach De De Stoner. "I think if we had come out down and let them get the first couple of points it could have been a whole different story."
"We had a whole lot of confidence (at the start of the 5th game)," said Hone, in the midst of the postgame celebrations. "Everybody just said, 'We worked so hard to get this far, don't let a scrappy team, Bowling Green is an excellent team, but don't let this team get into our heads and let's play our game. When you play your game nobody can stop you.' In that fifth game we really came together, everybody played their rolls, and we played well as a team."
Stoner was impressed with BG's defense that kept the Bobcats in the match during the third and fourth games.
"I think their defense really picked it up," explained Stoner about how BG staved off elimination. "Once their defense picked it up, they were able to attack. Before they weren't attacking and making it kind of easy for us, now we were back on our heels. We quit attacking and were kind of timid, just getting the ball across the net. I told them before the fifth game that we need to get aggressive. If you're going to make a mistake, make it an aggressive mistake. Actually, I tell them that all the time....thank goodness they actually decided to do it in game five."