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Hoban topples St. Charles for second state crown in three years
July 20, 2010
By Jim Jicha
Archbishop Hoban garnered its second state championship in three years with a 25-20, 25-14, 25-16 win over St. Charles in the Division II final held at Centerville High School. The Knights’ second win of the season over St. Charles came easier than their 25-20, 25-14, 18-25, 26-28, 15-9 decision in a Quad at Hilliard Bradley four weeks earlier.
Ranked number one all year, the Knights finished with the best record in Ohio at 25-1, including three wins over Division I top ranked St. Edward. The loss came in a quad at the hands of host Mt. Vernon, just after their huge and emotional 19-25, 25-19, 18-25, 26-24, 15-12 conquest of defending Division I champion Archbishop Moeller.
Hoban and St. Charles have met at the state tournament every year since Division II was created in 2008. That year the Knights stopped the Cardinals in a semifinal and beat McNicholas for their first state crown. Last year St. Charles topped the Knights in the final 25-16, 25-20, 25-19.
“It is a fierce rivalry that has really grown, created because of Division II” said Hoban Coach Matt Mihelic. “Both schools are similar, in different locations, with strong athletes and complimentary coaches. Both schools want to outperform each other, and they have really gone at each other”.
Beating St. Charles wasn’t the only thing on the minds of Hoban’s eight seniors on Sunday. They had just graduated at 10:30 that morning, and then driven from Akron back to Centerville. Mihelic, who was needless to say on pins and needles, said afterward “My perspective was I would start whoever was here”.
Mihelic added “We talked among the administration, parents and players. Once we got a plan from the administration where they would allow us to graduate at the beginning of the celebration, that allowed the boys more time to drive down and be here at a reasonable time before the match. The players graduated at 10:30, left at 10:55 and arrived around 2:30PM. The match started at 4:00PM”.
The Knight seniors didn’t look any worse for the wear.
St. Charles drew first blood when Ohio and East Region Player of the Year junior middle hitter Andy Sellan drilled a quick set from Patrick Feeney. Second Team All-State middle blocker Adam Weaver evened it with a kill, but St. Charles advanced to 3-1 when junior outside Evan Doney guided a dig into in a whole on the Knights’ floor, and Hoban obliged with a double hit. Weaver retorted with another kill, Doney answered in kind and the teams traded errors to 5-3.
Hoban outside R.C. Kunig sparked a five point rally with a kill down the line and two blocks in the middle. Honorable Mention All-State junior middle blocker Mikey Sokol added a tip as outside Eric Antonucci served the Knights to an 8-5 lead.
Doney broke the run with a blast that was dug into the stands, and errors on both sides left Hoban atop 9-8. Then Weaver demolished a short set from First Team All-State setter Willy Veverka that started a four-point spurt to which Kunig contributed a kill from back court and an ace.
Sellan interrupted with a block kill, and the teams traded points to 18-13. At that point St. Charles junior defensive specialist Landon Perry scored with a cross-court hit, and after two miscues by the Kinghts and a block in the middle by Sellan, St. Charles was again within a point 18-17.
Kunig kept Hoban a step ahead with a termination down the right, but Sellan followed with a kill, and answered a dump kill by Veverka with another blast. Weaver, however, nailed a quick set kill, and Hoban gained 22-19 breathing room thanks to a double hit.
Trademark defense kept St. Charles in it, as Hoban hit the pole after two great digs by Cardinal libero John Parent. But Sokol responded with a kill, and a blast off the block by Kunig made it 24-20. On the next volley Antonucci raced way back to save an errant dig, and when St. Charles hit into the net the game was over.
Hoban jumped out 3-0 in game two as Weaver tipped into a hole and Kunig ended a long volley with a smash from back court. St. Charles got on the board on a block from Sellan, but Weaver responded with a cross-court kill. With Hoban up 5-1, Cardinal senior outside Brian Merkle scored with a spike that was blocked over. Weaver answered with a termination and the Knights advanced to 7-2.
Sellan hammered the first of two St. Charles points. But when Veverka scored with a block on his left and Sokol found a hole in the right front, the roof fell in on the Cardinals. Kunig powered one blast down the right, drilled a second one right at someone and delivered a third that was dug into the stands. Antonucci hammered down the left and Sokol and Kunig blocked an overpass of a Ververka serve. Hoban was up 14-4.
The Cardinals closed to 15-10 on a 6-1 run helped by a block from junior middle Alec Jeffers and an ace from Doney. However, Weaver kept them at bay with two kills, and Hoban moved ahead 21-13 on a two-handed dump by Veverka. And after one more kill by Sellan, Hoban scored four straight, including a quickset smash from Sokol, to end it.
Things looked bleak for the Cardinals, but no more so than in their first meeting when Hoban won the first two by identical scores.
Sellan started things off in game three as St. Charles took a 2-0 lead, and Merkle kept them atop 3-2 after a kill from back court by Kunig and a block from Veverka. Antonucci retied with a soft hit down the left and Kunig followed with a cross-court smash. A Hoban lift resulted in a third tie. It would be the last one.
Sokol untied things with a spike through blockers and Veverka found a hole from backcourt. A net serve proved to be but a minor distraction as Kunig followed with a blast that was blocked out, and Antonucci served another break away rally to 10-5 as junior outside Tyler Gerwig contributed a kill.
The Cardinals fought back to 11-8, but Kunig terminated from the left into the middle, and then served four points as Weaver and Gerwig spiked kills and Ververka blocked in the middle, making the score 16-8.
St. Charles fought back to 17-12 on kills by Sellan and Merkle, aided by solid defensive play from Feeney, senior outside Nick Summers and Doney. And when Hoban reopened to 20-13, Doney spiked off the block and Summers found a hole in the middle to keep faint hopes alive.
Kunig, however, cratered a spike into an empty left corner, and thoughts of a rally were dashed by two errors and another blast by Kunig. One St. Charles point later, Kunig delivered the coup de grace with a block on the right.
Hoban’s straight set final went a lot more smoothly than their five-game battle at Hilliard Bradley. “We played really tight at Bradley” said Coach Mihelic. “It seemed like they wanted to play us more than we wanted to play them. When the match was in jeopardy (in game four) we lost one of our middles. But we came back and had the energy to take them in game five. (This time) we wanted to play them, we wanted to win and we had the motivation to get the job done”. “We weren’t prepared”, agreed setter Willy Veverka.
The Knights learned a lot as the season progressed, according to Veverka. “We were confident at the start of the season, but we knew we had a lot of work. We were confident last year and lost”, he explained, adding “We try to go in less emotional. We just want to play the game to win…we try not to do something stupid”.
That probably explains why Mihelic called no timeouts during the title match, and the semifinal for that matter. Explained Mihelic “We have confidence in the players…we tell them that confidence is shown on the court. It is a steady mindset they have, no peaks and valleys, just get the job done”. Repeating himself, he said “We always tell them to have confidence”.
No peaks and valleys.
That’s how you graduate at 10:30AM, drive 200 miles across Ohio and bring home a state championship trophy at 5:30PM.
1) It was a remarkable year for St. Charles (22-6) which graduated all but one starter from their 2009 state championship squad, and nevertheless finished the season ranked second in the state. The Cardinals were runner-up to Cincinnati St. Xavier in the Wolf Classic at Worthington Kilbourne, and beat Division I quarterfinalist Cleveland St. Ignatius in the process.
Late in the season they avenged a five-game loss to Bishop Watterson in a 25-23, 28-26, 25-23 straight set cliff hanger, and they prevailed again over the Eagles in the regional final 25-22, 25-22, 26-24. They were buzz sawed out of the gym in game one of their semifinal with Archbishop Alter, but won in five.
“They dug deep” said Coach Shane Farrell. “I’m real proud of the way we got here”.
2) “More than I can explain” was setter Willy Veverka’s response to how winning state felt. “My brother and my cousin won it two years back when I was on the bench watching. Losing it last year was tough but coming back and winning this year – it was even better playing St. Charles again”.
3) Prior to each match, Hoban senior defensive specialist Kyle McNicholas charges full speed into the rest of the team. Coach Mihelic said the team started doing this a couple of years ago as a way to get excited and energized, and establish camaraderie. McNicholas is “that guy” said Mihelic. “They picked him to lead them in celebration”.
4) Hoban Stats: Aces: Kunig – 1; Assists: Veverka – 40; Kills: Kunig - 17, Weaver - 11, Sokol - 8, Gerwig - 5, Veverka - 4, Antonucci – 2; Blocks: Kunig - 3, Veverka - 3