The Indians won the first game but then lost two close games.
By JOHN BUTERA
BARBERTON -- Despite an all-state effort from Tealle Hunkus and an overall good team performance, the Girard High volleyball team fell short Wednesday in a Division III regional semifinal, losing to Cleveland Villa Angela-St. Joseph 15-13, 14-16, 10-15 at Barberton High School.
VA-SJ (15-9) advanced into Saturday's championship game against United at 4 p.m.
Playing in its first regional ever, Girard closed with a 19-7 record.
"They've never been this far, and they sure played better than I anticipated," Girard coach Phil Walters said. "A couple of plays could have easily turned it around."
Built lead: Ahead 5-3 in the opening game, the Indians ran off five consecutive points to build a 10-3 lead.
An outstanding play from Katie Vesely and a good serve from Jamie Baxter keyed the surge for Girard. VA-SJ had other plans, however, as it answered with five points to cut its deficit to 11-10.
On each of the next four possessions, the teams scored one point apiece, and Girard held a 14-13 edge before Vesely's ace won the game.
In the second game, Hunkus showed her talent. With an outstanding serving style, she gave her team a 4-1 lead and also pulled it from a 9-7 deficit to a 10-9 advantage.
With Hunkus again coming up big to regain her team's serve late in the game, Girard led 14-11 before VASJ regrouped to pull out the victory.
"The key tonight was the momentum swing," Walters said. "In this type of game, you can only hold it for so long."
In the third game, Girard again appeared in good shape, building a three-point lead on four different occasions before extending the margin behind the play of Hunkus, who finished with 27 kills, seven digs and three blocks.
Dedication: "What can I say about her? She has a heart of gold," Walters said. "This is a girl who works year-round at this sport and has dedicated her life to it."
Ahead 9-4, the Indians scored just one point in their last five possessions, with a blast from Hunkus putting her team up 10-4.
VA-SJ made a complete turnaround, scoring 11 points in its final three possessions. The Vikings first cut the gap to 10-8 and then built a 13-10 lead before sealing the win.