Girard pulls away in thriller

Indians advance to regionals for first time since 2007

By Matthew Peaslee


When the winning Super Bowl team walks off the field, usually the MVP yells “I’m going to Disney World” in a postgame interview.

Girard’s Bryanna Jay is happy to be headed to a much less exotic location for a celebration.

As a serve from Hayley Spalla nicked the net and fell over for the winning, 25th point in Game 4, only one destination was on her mind.

“We’re going to Barberton,” the senior said. “We did it [and] that’s what popped into my head.”

Barberton is the site of the Division III regional semifinals. And, with their 3-1 victory over Springfield in Salem on Wednesday, the Indians have reserved their spot for the first time in four years.

“It’s definitely a milestone,” Jay said. “We’re halfway to state. It’s a lot of work ... paying off and we’re smiling.”

Actually, Morgan and Phil Walters were crying — tears of joy, of course.

The father-daughter tandem morphed into a coach-player relationship and the pair couldn’t be more excited about sharing the moment together.

“I’ve been dreaming about this since I was 5 or 6 years old,” Morgan said right after she jumped into her dad’s outstretched arms. “This is just the first step in my lifetime dream.”

She set a school record with 55 assists in the victory.

“It means something more,” Phil added. “I’m a coach, but I’m also a father. It’s tough to hide my emotions.”

Both teams fought an emotional battle for much of the match.

The Indians easily took the first game 25-14, but Games 2, 3 and 4 weren’t going to be as simple.

Girard compiled a 20-11 lead behind five kills from Jay, who finished the match with 26 and nine blocks. Then, Springfield rallied for 10 straight points getting a 21-20 lead. The back-and-forth bout, mainly led by the Tigers, actually, was halted when Callie Jay spiked home two straight points for the 31-29 Indian advantage. Callie, the younger Jay sister, had 22 kills.

“You got to work through adversity just to win a simple game,” Phil said. “They played well and they stuck to it, they didn’t lay down. That could have turned around the whole match right there.”

The Tigers did come back, winning the third game 25-21. It was another come-from-behind effort as they trailed for much of the game but rallied out of a 19-19 tie to win it. In the match, Springfield was led by Katie Kennedy with 15 points, Brooke Schrieber with 10 kills, Morgan Buchenic with four blocks and Jess Evan with 31 assists.

“We knew we could play with them,” said Springfield coach Bill Knight. “We played them tough. Losing [the secnd game,] I thought we were dead, but we came back and won. The girls never gave up.”

Girard held off the Tigers in Game 3, 25-21. Kara Miller played the net well for the Indians and notched 11 blocks.

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