WILLARD When it comes to sideline demeanor, few people are going to confuse Buckeye Central volleyball coach Ken Brubaker with his predecessor.
If he were a cartoon character, he'd be Snoopy's Joe Cool.
So in Set 3, when his team served into the net against Monroeville in the Division IV district semifinal at Willard High School, he let his frustration show a bit.
He lightly slapped his clipboard.
It was the only time he did it all night, but there were plenty of chances for him to repeat the action.
The Bucks had a lot of unforced errors and it resulted in falling to Monroeville in three sets, 25-18, 26-24, 25-22.
"I give a lot of credit to Monroeville. They played it better than us in all aspects of the game: served better, passed better, block was amazing," Brubaker said. "That's a great defensive team. They played excellent defense and we did not. They were the better team tonight."
The two squads played each other earlier this year at the BC Invitational and the Bucks won in two sets.
"When we played them, it was at home and it was the best of three," Brubaker said. "It's a little different when you go five and you go on a neutral court. We had great fan support and we're proud of our fans but it was one of those nights where we didn't play well. It was one of the nights where, no excuses, the better team won. Monroeville was more aggressive, had overpowering swings and they brought their defense with them. That's one they did not do at our invitational that they did much better today."
The difference this time around was Monroeville used aggressive serving and stellar defensive play at the net.
"I think we served very aggressively and they sent us a lot of free balls or out-of-system balls. It also helped that at the net we were getting a lot of touches," Monroeville coach Kendra Snook said. "So even though they were digging them up, it's hard to be in system when you're covering a block. We have four 6-footers on our team and we were spreading the ball around quite a bit with them. I think we balanced them out pretty well and I don't think they could tell necessarily where the attack was coming from."
Unforced errors also aided the cause.
"We had 20 unforced errors somebody told me. If you play a team like a Monroeville, even Upper Sandusky when we lost in the conference championship, you make unforced errors against teams with big swings, you're going to lose," Brubaker said. "And you deserve to lose. We deserved to lose. We did not play well."
Monroeville ran off 10 straight points early in the first set to take a 12-4 lead. The Bucks (20-4) rallied to cut it 16-13 but got no closer.
Set 2 saw Buckeye Central take a commanding 15-8 lead midway through the match before Monroeville mounted its comeback. An 11-4 run by the Eagles (21-3) tied the game up at 19. BC pulled ahead again with three straight point but it was tied again at 23. A kill from Jenna Delarber made it 24-23 and put the Bucks on the brink of tying the match up.
But two BC hitting errors and a Breanna Kramer kill later and Monroeville took the second set.
"Game 2 was huge for us. It was a big win. Buckeye Central wins that game and who knows what happens in Game 3. I have a very young team. They're still maturing so sometimes I don't know how they're going to respond to adversity. Tonight, they buckled down and believed in themselves at (24-23), they were going to win that game."
Brubaker said it hurt but it wasn't unchartered waters for his team.
"We've been down two before. We came back and won against Galion being down 2-0," Brubaker said. "You just don't see that. We almost did again tonight. We have two sophomores and a freshman playing tonight. Let's not forget that. We just had some great experience for some young kids tonight."
Set 3 featured nine ties, culminating with a 21-21 tie late in the game. A kill from Haley Kramer and a block from Samantha Reer forced Brubaker to burn his final timeout. The Eagles put the game to match point coming out of the timeout before Sarah Heydinger hammered a kill to stave off elimination.
It was short-lived. On the next serve, Haley Kramer finished off the match with a kill.
"I thought it was a complete team effort. We talked about yesterday that our kids need to believe in themselves because Buckeye Central is a very good team. They're ranked fourth in the state. They're 19-3 coming into (the tournament) but I believe we're a very good team too," Snook said. "We lost to them earlier this year in two straight at the Buckeye Central tournament. We didn't think it was a very good showing by us. Like I said, Buckeye Central is a very good team and my kids just came out ready to go."
Breanna Kramer finished with 20 kills and twin sister Haley Kramer had 10 kills. Cheyanna Littlejohn had seven kills. Reer had 17 digs and the Kramer sisters and Victoria Smith each had nine digs. Schafer had 32 assists. Quinn Schafer had five aces on the night.
"They had great serving. We usually serve tough. The tables were turned on us. They served tough and we passed bad," Brubaker said. "Our strength is passing. We need to be able to receive those tough serves. We didn't do that tonight well."