By Rob Kiser
ARCANUM — It didn’t matter that the Franklin Monroe volleyball team came in with a 20-2 record, while Lehman Catholic was 10-12.
It didn’t matter that the Lady Jets were the fourth seed and the Lady Cavaliers were the eighth seed.
It didn’t matter that Lehman had spent the first two sets playing from behind and was on the verge of having its season end.
The Lady Cavaliers weren’t going to be that team that lost in the opening round of sectionals — something longtime Lehman coach Greg Snipes had never experienced.
“That doesn’t happen at Lehman,” senior Maddy McFarland said after the Cavaliers rallied for a 19-25, 19-25, 25-23, 25-19, 15-9 win in the opening round of the Arcanum D-III sectional action Wednesday night. “It means a lot to get this win. It means our hard work is paying off.”
Sophomore Olivia Lucia said it even better.
“I don’t know if that (losing in the first round) has ever happened,” she said.
McFarland’s sister Lauren chuckled.
“If it has, it probably has been 30 years,” she said.
Instead, the Lady Cavaliers showed their heart and prevailed — and will now play Triad at 4 p.m. Saturday in a sectional final.
“I believe our schedule definitely helped us tonight,” Snipes said. “Early in the season, we wouldn’t have come back and won after dropping two sets.”
In the deciding set, Maddy McFarland had a five-set serving run -aided by four kills by Lucia and Lucia added another on a sideout to make it 8-3 before she exited the front row.
“It just takes one person to get hot and the whole team gets fired up,” Lucia said.
And Maddy McFarland, who also had an early kill when FM led 2-1 and an ace, was rock solid all night while never leaving the floor.
“She just does so many things for us,” Snipes said. “And she does them all well.”
But, just as quickly, FM ran off five unanswered points.
“We get off to that great start,” Snipes said. “Then, they tie it back up.”
But, just when the momentum seemed to be swinging, Malorie Hussey had two big kills and a block to give Lehman an 11-9 lead and force the Jets to use their final timeout.
“Malorie (Hussey) had some big kills and a lot of them were at critical moments,” Snipes said. “Alexis 9setter Alexis Snipes) did a great job of picking the right girls to go to. That was huge there in the fifth set.”
That sent Lauren McFarland to the service line and she never left it, serving four straight points to end the match and start the Lehman celebration.
“I didn’t know if I would (serve out the match), but I was hoping,” Lauren McFarland said.
A hitting error by FM and a spike by Ellie Scott made it 13-9.
Lauren McFarland then had a back row kill to set up match point and FM return of her serve was wide, ending the match.
“It felt pretty good,” Lauren McFarland said about the back row kill.
Nobody would have expected that finish after the first two sets, which FM won by matching 25-19 scores.
“Olivia (Lucia) kind of gave us a spark,” Snipes said. “But, that is what she has done all year. I think we just finally started playing with confidence. I made some defensive adjustments and the girls believed in it.”
A kill by Maddy McFarland and an ace by Lauren McFarland gave the Cavs a 23-19 lead in the third set.
FM scored the next four points to tie it, but two Jets hitting errors sent it to a fourth set.
In the fourth set, Lehman was down 4-3 early.
A tip by Snipes for sideout and three points on Pyper Larkins serve made it 7-4.
Hussey and Scott had kills for sideouts and Lauren McFarland serve an ace and service winner to make it 11-6.
Lauren Larger had a two-point service run and Lauren McFarland had a three-point run to make it 23-16 on a kill by Hussey.
At 24-19, Maddy McFarland had an attack FM couldn’t handle and it was on to a deciding fifth set as Lehman completed an amazing comeback.
Lucia finished with 22 kills in the match and Lauren McFarland added 11 kills and 17 digs.
Maddy McFarland had 11 kills and 15 digs, Hussey had five kills and five blocks and Scott added four blocks.
Snipes dished out 51 assists, Hailey Wick had 18 digs and Brogan McIver added six digs.
“I am really proud of these girls and the way they battled,” Greg Snipes said.
And no matter the odds, the stretch of first-round sectional wins wasn’t going to end with this team.
Rob Kiser is Sports Editor for the Daily Call. He can be reached at (937) 451-3334.