Fitch will focus on next year, where they'll return four of six starters.
By JOE SCALZO
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
DAYTON -- The Austintown Fitch High volleyball team did something Thursday that no Falcon team had done before -- win a state tournament game.
Unfortunately, they couldn't win two.
The Falcons beat Cincinnati St. Ursula Academy in the first game, but dropped the next two, losing 15-17, 15-9, 15-4 in the Division I state semifinal at the Nutter Center at Wright State University.
"We kept battling," said Fitch coach Tom Case. "It looked like we ran out of steam [after the first match] and we had a little less energy. I have to congratulate St. Ursula, they did a good job of adjusting."
Made it back: Fitch (24-4) advanced to state for the first time in 1999, when it lost in two games to Rocky River Magnificat. The Falcons lost to Solon in last year's regional finals.
St. Ursula (24-4) made its first state appearance in Div. I after winning state titles in Div. II from 1993-1998.
Fitch took an early 4-0 lead in the first game, but the Bulldogs scored six straight to take their first lead. After battling back and forth, Ursula seemed to take control with a 14-13 lead.
Then the fun began.
The teams combined for 15 exchanges and 12 sideouts before Falcon sophomore Maggie Case served the game-winner.
"I thought we played really well in the first game," said Falcon senior Ashlee Lemke. "The other two games kind of upset me."
Changes: The Bulldogs switched their lineup after the loss, setting deeper in the backcourt and looking for sophomore phenom, Beth Gillming, who had 19 kills, eight digs and five blocks in the match.
"We just needed to adjust to their game," said Ursula coach Julie Perry. "They have some nice attackers and they picked up the ball well. We didn't play too good in the first two games but in the final game I saw the team I've seen for the last three months."
The Bulldogs jumped out to a 9-4 lead in the second game and Fitch never seemed to recover. Ursula took an 8-0 lead en route to a much easier third game victory.
"Their hitting was great and we weren't blocking," said Lemke. "They're probably the best team we played this year."
Lemke, the only Fitch player to start on the 1999 state team, is the first Falcon to play in two state tournaments.
"I think the first time was more special," she said. "It was the first time our school ever got here and I was just a sophomore. But this was great. This was awesome."
Leaders: Sophomore Maggie Case led Fitch with 15 kills and 16 digs. Lemke had seven kills and seven digs while senior Jessica DiCarlo had seven kills and 13 digs. Sophomore Stacie Mang had 32 assists.
Ursula sophomore Bryn Kehoe had 39 assists, sophomore Beth Shelton had nine points and 10 digs and senior Tory Neyer had six kills and 12 digs.
The Bulldogs advanced to play Cincinnati Ursuline Academy on Saturday at the Nutter Center. CUA beat undefeated and top-ranked Toledo St. Ursula Academy in the first game, 15-9, 15-11.
Fitch, meanwhile, will focus on next year, where they'll return four of six starters.
"We've got some nice kids coming up," said Case. "Hopefully they got a feel for what this is like. But this is special. I've been telling these kids to enjoy the moment because you don't know if you'll be back."