WILLARD - After a pair of relatively comfortable wins in the first two games of Tuesday night's Division IV district semifinal match with Monroeville, things went awry for Buckeye Central in the third game.
Despite opening leads of 16-11 and 22-18, then having the Eagles at match point three times, the Buckettes couldn't put away Monroeville, which eventually won game three, 29-27.
A turning point? A scare that would derail a BC trip to the district finals?
"We definitely turned it around," said senior outside hitter Sammi Marcum, who registered 23 digs, 16 kills and three aces for the Buckettes Tuesday night. "We sat down, we talked about what we needed to fix and came together as a team."
Buckeye Central (23-3) played close with Monroeville in the fourth game, until Madison Williams smashed kills on three consecutive Buckette points. BC led 11-9, and never looked back, winning the match 25-19, 25-19, 27-29, 25-16. It will face Norwalk St. Paul at 6 p.m. here Thursday in the district finals. The Flyers beat Colonel Crawford in four games in the other district match at Willard Tuesday.
Marcum had five kills and an ace as the Buckettes pulled away in the fourth game.
"That's what she's done all season," BC coach Bill Bonham said. "She has truly defined the moment of senior leadership. She approached this season with a better attitude, a positive attitude. A desire to win, a desire to be a captain; she wanted to be a captain. She backed it up."
"I knew I didn't want it to be the last [match]," Marcum said. "And I knew I didn't want to take it five. Nobody on the team did."
It wasn't a completely smooth game for Marcum, as she struggled early and Bonham sat her down for a bit.
"When I went back in I knew I had to stay focused and I had to hit my spots," she said.
Marcum wasn't the only one who shined Tuesday night. Williams finished with a team high in kills (20) and digs (36) to go along with three aces.
Bonham also heaped praise on Kendra Schultz, who had 11 kills and six digs.
"She was unstoppable tonight," Bonham said. "We kept telling our setters, 'keep getting Kendra the ball.' She had a great game."
For her part, Schultz stressed the team-first mentality of BC in this postseason run.
"We're coming out together, and we know that we all want to push as far as we can," she said. It just feels awesome."
Buckeye Central controlled the first game early, jumping to leads of 8-2 and 15-6. But the Tigers rallied behind the serving of Brylie Schafer, who pushed the Tigers to a late run that got them within 22-19.
But back-to-back kills by BC freshman Jenna Delarber helped put the game away.
Delarber finished with seven kills.
The second game was close until Schultz's kill broke a 16-all tie, starting the Buckettes on an 8-3 run that closed out the contest.
"[Winning the first two games] was real important," Bonham said. "It's confidence."
Buckeye Central will be looking to beat the Flyers Thursday and advance to a place the program hasn't been since 2008 - regionals. That was during the Buckettes' state tournament run.
Bonham was asked what BC has to do to advance to regionals.
"Serve and serve-receive," Bonham said. "We've played some really good teams this season, from New Riegel to St. Henry, and Versailles, who's a D-III powerhouse down south. Our serving has been huge. We've taken a lot of teams out of system because of our serving, and vise-versa, our serve-receive has gotten solid.
For the Buckettes, Brooke Karl had 34 digs Tuesday, while Emily Weithman had 33 assists, 10 digs, two aces. Kilee Kimmel dished out 25 assists.