The Eagles posted a school-best 26-2 record.
By BRIAN RICHESSON
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
STOW -- The Hubbard High volleyball team was two points from winning the first game of its Division II regional final Saturday against Mentor Lake Catholic.
But those two points eluded the Eagles, and Lake Catholic advanced to the state tournament with a 16-14, 15-9 victory at Stow High.
"That first game is key," Hubbard coach Chuck Montgomery said.
"We had them at 13-10," he said. "If we could have pushed them to 14-10, that might have been a back-breaker. Instead, [Lake Catholic] sided out like a quality team does."
First win is huge: Lake Catholic (25-3) scored four straight points to lead 14-13, fended off another tie and secured the victory.
Cougars coach Rich Severino called the first-game win huge.
"It showed my kids that we can beat their team," Severino said.
Despite the loss, Montgomery remained upbeat.
"It's always tough to talk after you get beat, but we've had a phenomenal season," he said.
Hubbard posted a school-best 26-2 record, with its only other loss coming to state-bound Austintown Fitch, and played in the regional final for the first time.
Preventing the Eagles from advancing was Lake Catholic junior Jessica Sabath, whose play kept momentum on her team's side.
"She played a phenomenal match for them," Montgomery said. "She's an all-state player, and those type of players are supposed to step up in those kind of matches."
It was Sabath's play on defense that was most notable as she kept a number of rallies alive with dives.
"When you hit a ball like [Hubbard's Katy Jo] Mroski hits it and they're making one-handed saves, it's a different ball game," Montgomery said.
"Every time we hit a big shot, she was there to dig it up."
First ever state: Severino said Lake Catholic, which advanced to its first state tournament, executed its defensive assignments.
"She hits the ball in the same area, so we flooded that area," he said of trying to contain Mroski. "We also tried to tip balls on them because we noticed big holes in the middle of the defense."
Lake Catholic eliminated Hubbard in three games in the regional semifinals last season.
"That's how close we are," Montgomery said, referring to his team's ability to play with the state's best.
Mroski finished with 17 kills and three blocks, while Nicole Pringle had 13 digs, 10 assists and nine service points. Amy Falhamer added 12 digs, Traci Hassell 11 assists and Nyelia Page three blocks.