COVINGTON — Fairlawn’s remarkable turnaround under first-year coach Jodi Hickman came to a heartbreaking end for the team in a Division IV sectional opener against Yellow Springs. But Hickman is proud of what the team accomplished this season and is upbeat about the direction of the program.
After dominating in the first two sets, the No. 10 seed Jets faltered down the stretch in 20-25, 13-25, 25-13, 25-23, 15-7 loss. Fairlawn finished 4-19 and lost 3-0 in the first round of the tournament last year but finishes 2018 with a 12-11 overall record.
“I’m very proud of them,” Hickman said of the team’s turnaround this season. “I just told them that they should be proud of themselves and what they did this year. We finished regular season strong.”
The No. 7 Bulldogs (19-2) won the Metro Buckeye Conference this season. They pulled out to a 10-2 lead in the third game on their way to a big win.
After trailing 9-5 early in the fourth, Fairlawn battled back and tied it 10-10. Several defensive miscues helped the Bulldogs score five on the next six points.
Lauren Dudgeon had a kill on a hard spike to narrow the lead to 16-15, but Yellow Springs scored the next three. Dudgeon had another kill to pull the Jets within 21-19, but Yellow Springs scored the next three.
Fairlawn pulled within 24-23 thanks in part to Yellow Springs defensive miscues, but a failed return ended it in the Bulldogs’ favor.
A Yellow Springs spike sent out-of-bounds and a kill by MaCalla Huelskamp gave Fairlawn a 2-0 early lead in the fifth game. After Dudgeon had a kill to put the Jets up 4-3, Yellow Springs scored the next five points and pulled away.
“I’ve got three freshmen out there and a lot of other young girls, and we were making some freshman mistakes at the end,” Hickman said. “We kind of went to sleep I think. (Yellow Springs) kind of came alive.”
The teams played to a 7-7 tie early in the first match, but Fairlawn scored three consecutive points to take a 13-9 lead. Yellow Springs fought back to tie it 20-20, but the Jets scored the last five to win the set.
Fairlawn pulled out to a 6-5 lead in the second game, scored four of the next five to boost its lead to four and then pulled out to a 10-point lead at 21-11.
The Jets will lose five freshmen to graduation, including Dudgeon. She was a second team all-Shelby County Athletic League selection this year after recording 256 kills and 37 blocks in regular season.
“She’s a leader on and off the court,” Hickman said. “She hustles, she doesn’t give up, she does anything I want her to do. She’s a great kid.”
Fairlawn will return many key players, including freshman Jessie Abke and Hueslkamp, who is a junior. Abke had 14 kills on Tuesday and Huelskamp had seven kills and 26 digs.
“We’ve got three freshmen starters coming back and a lot of other good girls, our JV team was strong, and our eighth-grade team is tough,” Hickman said. “It’s a good future ahead for us.”
Dudgeon led Fairlawn with 27 kills. Kenedee Gaillmore had seven kills and Taylor Lessing had 38 assists.
Lehman Catholic 3, Ansonia 0
In a volleyball program with the tradition of Lehman Catholic’s, just winning a couple tournament games isn’t enough.
So as the Cavaliers started down the tourney trail by dominating Ansonia 25-11, 25-15, 25-13 in Tuesday’s first sectional quarterfinal night, they hope it was just the beginning.
No. 4 seed Lehman (15-8) advances to play No. 24 seed Botkins (3-19) on Saturday in second-round action.
And last year’s sectional final loss to Riverside hasn’t been forgotten.
“I am sure (that is motivation),” Lehman coach Greg Snipes said. “A lot of these girls have been starting for two or three years. They want this to be a special year and want to make it happen.”
And that loss to Riverside has been avenged already.
“Definitely,” junior outside hitter Lauren McFarland said. “When we played them this year, we beat them pretty easily.”
The Cavaliers play as strong a schedule as any D-IV team, with many games against Midwest Athletic Conference and SCAL heavyweights.
“It is hard (not to look ahead), but we have played some teams like Ansonia during the year,” McFarland said.
And after a quick 25-11 win in set one, Lehman found itself in a battle early in the second set.
The Cavaliers were leading just 7-6 when Abby Schutt had a tip for a kill.
With McFarland serving, Reese Geise had a kill and Malorie Hussey had a tip to make 10-6.
Hussey had a kill for sideout at 11-7, then Abby Schutt served three straight points — with two service winners and a kill by McFarland.
McFarland had three kills down the stretch and Hussey had kills for the final two points in a 25-15 win.
The serving of Geise and Olivia Lucia — combined with Alexis Snipes’ setting and the hitting of McFarland, Lucia and Abby Schutt — allowed Lehman to jump out 11-3 in the third set and Lucia finished things off with an ace at 25-13.
“Our schedule has prepared us (for a tournament run),” Greg Snipes said. “But, we have had some letdowns in matches during the season. I didn’t feel like we were as focused as we could have been, but our serve receive and defense really got us going in this match.”
McFarland led a balanced attack, pounding 12 kills. Lucia had eight kills, while Abby Schutt, Geise and Hussey all had six kills.
Snipes dished out 36 assists and Geise served three aces.
Piqua Daily Call sports editor Rob Kiser contributed to this article. Kiser can be reached at email@example.com.