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St. Charles survives 'fired up' Alter, advances to title rematch with Hoban
July 20, 2010
By Jim Jicha
In the second Division II semifinal, defending state champion St. Charles shrugged off a first set blowout and got past young and determined Archbishop Alter 12-25, 25-22, 25-20, 20-25, 15-8. “Alter was very surprising” Cardinal Coach Shane Farrell said afterward. “We hadn’t seen them or heard much about them. Their crowd was huge, loud, and they came fired up”.
That they did, and the Cardinals quickly found themselves deep in a 20-6 crater.
The game started with a brief back and forth as 6’4” junior right side Luke McCrate opened with a kill for Alter and 6’3” all-Ohio and East Region Player of the Year junior middle Andy Sellan answered with a pop in the middle. An exchange of errors followed.
Things unraveled for St. Charles immediately thereafter when 6’3” Knights First Team All-State and West Region Player of the Year setter Keaton Pieper blocked Sellan. The Cardinals obliged with two infractions, sophomore libero Scott Morrison served up an ace, and after a long hit Farrell called timeout. This came to no avail as Pieper followed with a booming block on the right, and after kills by sophomore Chuck Eisenhauer and senior Mark Kroger, Alter was up 11-2.
With the score 14-6, Pieper ignited another rally, converting a too-close-to-the net pass into a great set that Kroger drilled down the middle. The Knights added five more, another Cardinal timeout notwithstanding, as Second Team All-State senior outside Alex Morrison and sophomore middle Charlie Schaefer scored on blocks and Kroger dished up an ace.
From there it was a matter of time, and Eisenhauer ended it with two rockets.
Farrell quickly put things into perspective in the huddle, telling his players “Look at the scoreboard, it’s 0-0”. Turning philosopher later, Farrell explained “That’s the thing about volleyball, you can have a bad game but its best-of-five. When we lost that first game I thought we were a little rattled, so I said 'let’s break it down, let’s not worry about winning the whole game'”.
Game two was, indeed, a different story, as St. Charles battled through twelve ties to knot the best-of-five at a set apiece. Scoring began as before with McCrate hitting into a hole and Sellan hammering a knockdown kill. McCrate and Schaefer teamed up on a block, Sellan scored again, and after a kill by Morrison the Knights were on top 3-2.
Point trading and ties continued until St. Charles pulled ahead 7-5 courtesy of Alter miscues. Alter knotted the score at eight and again at ten as McCrate scored three. Sellan sparked a three point run, but Alter came back on a dump from Pieper and a kill by Eisenhauer. And after the Cardinals edged back atop 16-14, Pieper sparked a four-point run with a dump as McCrate contributed a block and a kill. Farrell called timeout, and this one produced the desired affect as senior opposite Nick Summers ended the run with a spike off the block.
St. Charles moved back on top 20-19 on a double block by Sellan and Summers, this coming after junior outside Evan Doney and Summers had teamed up to keep an Alter smash off the floor. And after one more tie, senior outside Brian Merkle drove a spike down the left right at a defender. Another save by Doney was followed by an Alter hitting error and Sellan blocked a dump by Pieper.
St. Charles went up 24-20, despite a heroic dig by Morrison on a block, when Merkle spiked a kill through blockers. Alter scored two more times, winning an intense volley to cut the lead to 24-22, before Merkle pounded through the block again for the game winner.
Schaefer started game three off with a kill off the slide for Alter and the teams traded points to 2-1. But Sellan took over with three kills, and after two Alter miscues the Cardinals were up 6-2, and they kept the lead at three or more from there.
Summers culminated a four-point run to 13-6 with a block, and Sellan showed why he was voted Ohio’s Division II Player of the Year as St. Charles continued their margin to 18-11. Alter would not go quietly, however, scoring three and trading points to 23-19. And when McCrate tipped into a hole at the net, Cardinal fans were squirming a bit.
Doney eased their concerns with a slam that sliced off the block, and when a Knights’ hit went wide right, the Cardinals were up 2-1.
The Knights continued their momentum into game four, scoring first for the fourth set in a row, and fought through three ties to take a 6-4 lead. Junior middle hitter Alec Jeffers put St. Charles back on top, tipping for two points and teaming with Summers on a double block.
Alter, however, retook the lead for good, moving out 14-9 on a dump by Pieper and two kills from McCrate. Eisenhauer sparked two three-point runs with a kill and an ace as the lead increased to 23-16, and Morrison eventually ended it with a kill of the block.
In the huddle Farrell repeated his advice about not worrying about the whole game with “Let’s just win that battle to five, and that battle to ten, and then 15”.
St. Charles finally scored first in the tiebreaker, taking 2-0 and 3-1 leads on kills by Sellan, with Pieper blocking in between. But Alter rallied ahead 4-3 as Eisenhauer sandwiched two kills around an ace from Morrison. Sellan, however, retied with a termination, St. Charles outlasted the Knights on an intense volley and Jeffers demolished an overpass to make it 6-4.
The first battle was won.
Pieper broke the run with a dump that was mishandled, and the Knights matched two more points to stay close at 8-7 on a blast by Kroger. But when St. Charles won another big volley – Merkle blocked killed on McCrate after McCrate and Schaefer had rejected two Cardinals blasts – things went downhill fast for Alter. Their next attempt went long (ending the second battle), and Sellan directed a soft liner through traffic.
Alter called timeout, which went for naught when an overpass came into Sellan’s purview, and the Cardinals flew away 14-7. One Knight point later Sellan ended it with a blast in the middle.
St. Charles will face Archbishop Hoban in a state title rematch on Sunday. The Cardinals defeated Hoban 25-16, 25-20, 25-19 in last year's finale.
This was Archbishop Alter’s second trip to state in three years. The Knights were ousted in four by Archbishop McNicholas in a 2008 semifinal. It was also quite an accomplishment for first-year coach Craig Erford who guided a young team - three sophomores and two juniors in the starting seven – to a 6-0 first place finish in the Greater Catholic League North.