DEPT. OF ATHLETICS
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Volleyball finishes as District Runner-up
November 14, 2011By Chad Rutkowski of Cardinal Stritch Catholic High School
15-8-1 a Guiding Inspiration
Our Cardinal Stritch Varsity Volleyball team had what one could label an up and down regular season. The team finished the regular season with 12 wins and 10 losses, which is far from any failure; however, held many moments where improvements were evident. The Lady Cardinals were able to step to the challenge and win the games they seemed to possess more talent. At the same time, the team often struggled during the season to overcome the hurdle of playing teams that matched their talent level. This particularly led to two loses against Toledo Christian, who is also in Cardinal Stritch’s TAAC conference. The end result was the team coming up a little short in our goal of winning the TAAC Championship and bringing it back to Cardinal Stritch. Ending with a winning record in the regular season and the team’s talent developing further with each passing match allowed for a very successful season. Not being able to take the TAAC Championship away from Toledo Christian left a sense of unfinished business with the team, and a sour taste in their mouth.
With a regular season that felt it had very high moments, but also moments of disappointment; heading into tournament play, there was a sense of uneasiness and nerves as to how we were going to be able to perform. It wasn’t until the last practice before tournament play started that the true inspiration would come out, guiding the team to a District Finals finish. It was at that practice that the team came together to create a phrase, slogan, motivational goal—however you want to label it—bringing together 15 girls to realize they were one team that needed each other to reach their goals. The phrase that came out of that practice was 15-8-1. It was the young women on the team that defined this phrase; fifteen girls, eight games, one goal.
This driving goal that was born out of our last day of hard practice before tournament set the stage for what turned out to be an inspirational and heartwarming tournament run for a very motivated and talented Cardinal Stritch volleyball team. The first match the team faced was against Holgate, who was lower seed. The team had a new found motivation pushing them forward. All 15 of the girls on the team pushed each other through the first round, easily winning in 3 games: 25-12, 25-15, and 27-25. This propelled the team to a Sectional Final against 3 seed Pettisville. This game set up a bigger challenge for the Lady Cardinals. Knowing this was another big challenge for our team; I went out and purchased white Nike sweatbands for the entire team. On those sweatbands, I wrote the phrase 15-8-1; and I gave those sweatbands to the team in the locker room before our match against Pettisville. It was another binding moment that brought the team even closer together to fight to reach their goal of winning the State Championship.
The match against Pettisville set up more than just a roadblock for the team to reach their goal, but it also set up a personal battle the girls would have to face. During the regular season, the team struggled against teams that were of the same caliber in talent. Pettisville was a team of our caliber, and they jumped out to a first set lead over our team, winning 21-25. It was the first real challenge the team faced after bonding together with their 15-8-1 phrase. It did not take them long to regroup and focus on the task at hand, as they were able to come back and win the second set 25-20. This was the beginning of a long, hard fought match that went back and forth. The Lady Cardinals took the advantage winning the third set, but fell short in closing out in the fourth set losing 18-25. It was in the moment of facing a do-or-die fifth set that the team really grasped on to the phrase and goal they had created just a week ago. The all came together to jump their first hurdle and win the match and winning their Sectional.
The goal and desires of the team launched them into to a very tough District Semifinal match against an undefeated Edon team. Sitting at 24-0, betting them was going to be a very monumental challenge for our team. Bound by a driving force, the team jumped all over Edon in the first set winning 25-22. The team’s confidence was soaring, and they demonstrated they were up for the challenge. Being undefeated to this point, Edon rebounded and showed they were a very tough team to beat by dominating the Lady Cardinals 12-25 in the second set. Again, the team demonstrated there was something bigger than the team motivating them to play together and win. The Lady Cardinals came back in set three and four to control Edon and win the District Semifinal match; being the David to take down Goliath. Onward to the District Finals the team went, just five games away from their goal.
Ayersville was the next hurdle for the Lady Cardinals to face in order to achieve their goal. Ayersville is from Defiance, Ohio; and this was where the match was going to be taking place. This created a tough environment and a tough team for the team to face. This didn’t seem to faze any of our players, as they knew what they had to do in order to reach their goal. Ayersville jumped out right away with a dominating 16-25 win in set one. My fears came out after this loss, as they way we lost mirrored the fear that crept in during our losses in the regular season. That was simply my thought, not the teams’, because they came back to win set two 25-16. As the next two sets progressed, Ayersville slowly demonstrated they were simply the better team on that particular night. Our Lady Cardinals lost 11-25 and 11-25 in sets three and four. The dream and goal of winning the state championship ended on that night.
Losing to Ayersville was a devastating loss for the team. It ended their improbable run, and took the goal away from them they set that afternoon right before the tournament started. However, that loss did not take away the teams’ heart, desires, and motivation to bond as a team and fight as a team through every adversity they faced in that tournament. All fifteen players stood behind a phrase 15-8-1: fifteen players putting aside their own personal desires to work as one fluid team; eight matches to win to reach the state championship; one goal to be the best team in the state. The end goal may not have been accomplished, but what those girls were able to accomplish in coming together as sisters, players, and friends can never be forgotten. The heart and spirit the fifteen players demonstrated in every match they played can never be taken away. This goal, dream, desire did not die in that loss to Ayersville. 15-8-1 is the phrase that continues to drive the Lady Cardinals to work even harder to accomplish that same goal next season.