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St. Xavier wins second Wolf Invitational crown in three years
April 27, 2010
by Jim Jicha
Cincinnati St. Xavier captured its second Wolf Invitational crown in three years with a 25-16, 25-18, 25-21 decision over St. Charles. The Bombers, who did not play in last year’s event, also won in 2008. This was their second major tourney win this year. The Bombers beat fellow Greater Cincinnati League member Elder in the title match of the St. Charles Classic on March 27.
St. Xavier advanced to the final with a 25-20, 19-25, 13-25, 25-23, 15-8 win over LaSalle. Ben Lottman spiked a kill and served five points as the Bombers overcame a brief 5-2 LaSalle lead in game one, and they gradually increased their edge to 18-12 behind the hitting of junior setter/hitter Matthew Kues, and sophomores Stephen Creevy and Collin Flesner. LaSalle rallied to within 20-18 before Lottman hammered two cross-court kills and a termination to end it.
The Bombers were up 9-7 in game two when blocks by setter/opposite Luke Eschenbach and outside Kirby Johanson got LaSalle rolling. The Lancers took an 11-10 lead on a hit by Eschenbach, who put them on top for good 16-13 with a kill down the right and two aces.
A three point spurt made it 21-17 and the Lancers advanced to 23-18 on a kill by opposite Tyler Celek and a dig from libero Matt Ketzer that crossed the net and landed in St. Xavier’s mid-court. That came after the Bombers had parried blasts from Eschenbach and junior middle Ben Moeller.
One Bomber point later, Moeller blocked a spike from back court and Lancer outside Nic Bosch delivered a well-placed tip that was touched three times and out for the game winner.
LaSalle took early 9-4 control of game three, upping the margin to 15-8 and 18-9 on a booming block from Moeller. With the score 21-13, Johanson blocked, middle hitter Dylan Berryhill aced, and Moeller and Celek ended it with two more blocks.
St. Xavier came out charging in game four, however, and forged a 17-9 lead. LaSalle chipped away to 21-16, but point trading took the Bombers to a game point edge, with a big block by Derek Jung making the score 24-18. A long serve gave LaSalle new life and the Lancers rallied to 24-23 on blocks by Eschenbach and a kill from Bosch. Bur what goes around comes around, and the rally abruptly ended when a serve sailed out.
Flesner ended a long volley with a kill off the block as St. Xavier drew first blood in the tiebreaker, and the Bombers never trailed. Moeller demolished a short set from Zach Sander, but St. Xavier kept a step ahead on an exchange of errors. Jung scored with a kill after Lancer defender Alec King had saved a Bomber dump attempt. When a tip by Lottman was blocked over but out, the Bombers were ahead for good, although it stayed close for a bit as Eschenbach cut the lead to 4-3, St. Xavier scored two and the Lancers responded in kind.
After a Lancer cross court shot landed out to end an intense volley, outside hitter Andy Keyes along with Creevy and Flesner pounded kills to fuel a 6-1 Bomber sortie. Johanson cut the lead to 12-7 but Keyes retorted with a cross-court blast and a block kill by Lottman took the score to match point. Moeller intervened with a kill before Jung terminated the match with a blast in the middle.
St. Charles downed St. Ignatius 22-25, 25-10, 27-25, 25-19 in the other semifinal. The Cardinals graduated most of their starting lineup but showed much the same pesky defense and ball control form of last season’s state championship squad. The Eagles also lost heavily to graduation, and with nobody over 6’2” and without the brute power of Greg Herceg and Pat Adler, they’ve taken to ball control themselves with defenders like 5’10” sophomore libero Jay Wolf and 5’11” defensive specialist/outside Tim Moran.
The Cardinals broke from 11-all in game one tie to 15-11 helped by a termination from 6’3” junior middle/outside Andy Sellan and a kill by outside Brian Merkle. A spike by Wildcat outside Tim Hark was blocked out, however, and Hark followed with three service points including an ace.
Sellan ended the rally with a blast right at someone, but Hark retied with a spike from backcourt and the Wildcats moved ahead 18-17 on a tip by middle blocker Andrew Brzezinski and a kill by Moran.
After St. Charles re-knotted the score, Moran started a three-point spurt with a cross-court shot. The Cardinals got two back on block kills from middle Alec Jeffers and opposite Nick Summers, but yielded two on errors. Hark blasted a backset from Tim Messina that was dug way out to end the game.
St. Charles took quick charge of game two and raced ahead 16-7, keeping plays alive until the Wildcats made mistakes. Sellan showed his versatility with diving digs, including one at the net that kept a block from landing. With the score 20-10, Jeffers slammed a knock down spike, and Merkle hammered a cross-court shot after another save from Sellan. Summers and Jeffers eventually teamed up for a game-winning block.
In game three the Cardinals broke from 4-4 and built a 16-11 lead, paced by kills from Sellan. St. Ignatius closed to 21-20 with a 5-1 run that Brzezinski sparked with a tip and block kill. A short set blast by Hark left the Wildcats down 21-20, but Sellan smashed a kill off the block, and after a dump by Messina, Cardinal outside Patrick Feeney won a play at the net to make it 23-21.
A long volley followed, as Feeney dug an attempted dump from Messina, and Wolf dove to keep two Cardinals hits off the floor. St. Charles finally hit into the net, and St. Ignatius sophomore opposite Rich Enty ended another intense exchange with a block on Sellan that evened matters.
With both teams going for the 2-1 advantage, Sellan brought on a game point with a kill, and after a hitting error, Merkle forced another. Enty kept the Wildcats alive with a block that ended a battle at the net. But Feeney answered with kill thru the block, and when a St. Ignatius hit sailed wide the game was over.
Game four was pretty much all St. Charles as the Cardinals built a 13-6 lead, which they expanded to 17-7 on two kills by junior outside Evan Doney, and two blocks by Sellan with help from Doney. St. Ignatius cut the lead from 22-13 to 24-19 after a block by Brzezinski. On the next volley Wolf dug a block at the net, but Doney responded with a game ending spike that was blocked over but out.
In the consolation match for third, LaSalle rallied from 0-2 to nip St. Ignatius 20-25, 23-25, 25-13, 25-21, 15-12. The Lancers gained some measure of revenge for last year when St. Ignatius beat them in straight sets for the Wolf Invitational crown.
Andy Sellan and Evan Dohey of St. Charles are members of the Vanguard 17 Smack team that earned a bid to nationals with a fifth place finish at Penn State.