BLUFFTON — There is something special about the sound of the words district champion, so much so that Celina decided it liked those words enough to grab two in a row.
The number two seeded Bulldogs knocked off top-seeded Shawnee 3-0 to avenge a regular season 3-2 loss to their Western Buckeye League rival in Division II volleyball action at the Sommer Center at Bluffton University on Thursday night.
As a result, the Bulldogs return to the Lexington regional where they will meet the winner of the Parma Padua Fransiscan versus Rocky River match-up at 6 p.m. Thursday.
After 10 early ties in the first set, the Bulldogs sprinted out to a 23-18 lead before Shawnee responded and tied the set at 24. But the Bulldogs got a huge block by Maddy Luebke and an ace by Carly McNeilan to claim a hard fought 26-24 win.
The second set was also a back and forth event that finally saw Celina grab the win thanks to kills by McKenna Black for the 24th and 25th points.
The Indians, who bow out at 18-7, refused to fold and took a 6-3 lead thanks to serves by Amanda Medsker. The Indians still led 15-10 when Celina went on an 8-0 run with Paige Duncan serving.
The Bulldogs (16-9) then were able to hang on and a kill by Hannah Rasawehr gave them the 25-23 set and also the match.
The Indians were paced by senior standout Norah Painter, who ended an outstanding career with 11 kills, three blocks and eight digs. Haley Manuel added six kills for the Indians while Emily Allen totaled nine digs, 17 assists and three aces. Kelsey Fishbach contributed 12 assists for Shawnee.
“We just weren’t flowing tonight but I’m extremely proud of these girls and the season we had.” Shawnee coach Amy Knight said. “We now have a firm foundation and look forward to next season.”
The Bulldogs’ Luebke had a big night with four kills and seven blocks, including two blocks in the first set that helped set the tone for the match.
Rasawehr and Black both finished with eight kills while Black added four blocks. Libero Hope Ebbing led the way with 18 digs and Duncan had 18 assists with Samantha Carlin contributing 10 assists for Celina.
“We have six seniors who want to go out with a bang and they stepped up and took care of the ball tonight.” Celina coach Amy Sutter said. “Maddy’s (Luebke) early blocks really pumped us up for the rest of the night and we played smart. We get a return trip to the regional tournament and are going to enjoy the ride.”
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