BUCYRUS - Columbian coach Breena Lofquist got everything she wanted out of her team in Wednesday night's sectional semifinal match with Galion.
Everything, that is, except a victory.
The Tornadoes, who came to the Bucyrus sectional with just a 5-13 record, gave the Tigers all they could handle, rallying from a rough first game to take two of the next three and force a fifth.
But the Tigers, behind a solid fifth game from Reanne Neal, inched past the Tornadoes and advanced, winning 25-16, 24-26, 25-13, 20-25, 15-11.
"It was fantastic," Lofquist said. "We've had a rough year and (we) played hard. I couldn't have asked for anything more.
"They earned it; they deserved it. I know we lost, but it was a big step for us."
Galion improved to 15-8, and will face Shelby in Saturday's sectional final. The Whippets slipped past Mansfield Madison in the first match Wednesday.
Galion scored the first two points of the first game, and never trailed, opening up an 18-7 lead and holding on for a 25-16 win.
In the second game, a kill by Megan Murphy opened a 6-2 Columbian lead, but Galion battled back, at one point opening up leads of 18-13 and 20-14 after an Addison Zeisler ace.
But Columbian batted back with a 7-1 run, tying the game when Sara Berecz, in her final volleyball match for TC, slammed a kill to make it 21-all. The game was tied at 24 until Haley Sendelbach's kill gave Columbian the lead for good.
Berecz had a strong second game, serving three aces and getting some key kills late.
"She's coming off an injury," Lofquist said. "This is only her third week back playing, and she didn't miss a beat."
Galion coach Jaime Valentine said her team has had issues seizing momentum this season.
"We come out ready to put them away right away, and by the time Game 3 is, it's not that we haven't conditioned and worked hard since June in doing that, but it's a mental thing, mental toughness," she said.
Galion showed some toughness in the third game, grabbing a 7-3 edge on an Ellie Frye ace and never looking back.
With its season on the line in game four, Sendelbach took over. Down 18-17, Sendelbach smashed four consecutive kills. Then Tessa Fuhrer's ace, followed by an attack error by Galion, gave the Tornadoes a comfortable 23-18 lead. The teams split the next four points, and Columbian forced a fifth game.
"(Sendelbach) was aggressive, that's what we needed her to be," Lofquist said. "She was a leader."
That wasn't the only Tornado Lofquist was pleased with.
"I want to give a lot of credit to Alyssa Price too," Lofquist said. "She played fantastic tonight."
While the first four games had featured big momentum swings, the fifth was tight from beginning to end. Price smashed a kill to give Columbian a 1-0 advantage, then a Sendelbach kill moments later made it 4-2.
But with Columbian leading 5-3, the Tigers went on a 4-0 run to take a 7-5 lead.
Lofquist called for time, and TC responded by scoring the next two points.
Columbian took the lead once more - 10-9 - on a Galion attack error. But Galion scored five of the next six points (including a disputed call that came when Columbian players thought a ball was tipped by Galion on its way out of bounds but was ruled a Tiger point) to close out the match.
"We took advantage of having momentum and [the] opportunity to put the ball away," Valentine said. "We didn't hit well tonight, but at key moments we finally found a place to put the ball."
Lofquist said TC got some tough bounces in the fifth game.
"Those are the most frustrating," she said. "There were two or three of those at the end."