ELIDA - Needless to say, the Mohawk volleyball team and its faithful fans were not the only ones who were disappointed Wednesday night when the squad was ousted from the Division IV regional semifinal by McComb.
So was Buckeye Central coach Bill Bonham.
Bonham and his team were expecting to see the Warriors in the regional final Saturday at 2 p.m. at the Elida Fieldhouse.
After beating Cardinal Stritch in the regional opener Wednesday night, the Buckeye Central players stuck around to watch the first game between Mohawk and McComb. And they saw what Bonham had anticipated, Mohawk whipping McComb 25-14. So the players got on the bus and headed back for New Washington while Bonham stayed behind to continue his scouting report.
It was a good thing he did or he'd have gone home with the same impression his team did: they were playing Mohawk.
They're still playing an MHS and a black and red team, but that's about the end of the similarities.
"Yeah, I had in my head what we were going to do with Mohawk. Our girls were thinking Mohawk in their head and what they need to do. I'm thinking the whole match Mohawk, and lo and behold, it gets turned around," Bonham said. "So in game four, I told my wife, I have to start looking at McComb, I guess, and start finding their weaknesses. It definitely threw a curveball there and we're going to have to do our best to try to recover and make the most of it. The scouting report is a little out the window."
McComb coach Leslie Kahle said her team will have its hands full on Saturday.
"Buckeye Central is an outstanding program from a very great league. They are historically a very strong team," Kahle said. "We know that they have scouted us and they're going to come out with their A game as well. My hope is that the girls do exactly what they did (Wednesday night) and play with guts and determination and drive us to state."
While McComb has made it to the regional final before (two years ago), this is not unfamiliar territory for the Buckettes, who last made it to this point in 2008 on their way to the state tournament. It is, however, the first time Bonham has guided the team this far.
"To say you're one game away from going to state (is exciting). Who gets to say that? A lot of teams would be excited to go to state," Bonham said. "How many can say they're a game away? In the famous words of some reporter that I know, Mohawk was expected to get back to state again this year. That's going to be motivation in practice. I love being the underdog. But as far as being in regional finals, that's awesome."
It's just another step for a Buckettes team that has exceeded goals.
"This team has gone beyond any expectations we ever thought we could achieve: undefeated NCC season again; get through districts as easily as we did," Bonham said. "I'm not taking anything away from Monroeville or St. Paul, but we had a very comfortable and confident district."
Buckeye Central doesn't bring the height to the table that the Panthers have but Kahle said that doesn't mean it's a slam dunk.
"No, they don't (have a lot of height) but they are extremely intelligent. Our height, as I've said all year, is definitely a plus for us, and our athleticism combined with that is outstanding," Kahle said. "Our height is an advantage for us but I take our height as just another part of our game. A good team like Buckeye Central is going to know how to use what they have against us."
Bonham said the key will be attack, attack, attack.
"They're a big team, there's no doubt about that. They put up a big block and they have some hitters who can hit all over the place. They showed that they can hit from the right side, which a lot of high school teams don't do. So we're going to have to prepare for that and get our left-side blockers blocking a little bit and ready to cover that," Bonham said. "With their size, we saw when Mohawk attacked them that their defense wasn't that strong. Mohawk quit attacking and went to a lot of tipping. That allowed McComb to get momentum and allowed them to get some rhythm and allowed them to attack the ball. We're still going to have go through what we need to do and stay aggressive and keep attacking. That's all there's going to be to it."
As far as motivation, it won't matter the foe.
"We're one step away from state and that's going to have to be their motivation at this point," Bonham said.