BOARDMAN-Sometimes a team's best effort, no matter how spirited, is not quite enough. That was the case for the Salem volleyball team in Thursday's Division II district final.
Despite being in position to win each set, the third-seeded Quakers could never muster enough ammunition close out a powerful Crestwood squad, falling to the top-seeded Red Devils 26-24, 25-23, 25-23 at Boardman High School.
"We did everything we could do," Salem senior Megan Lehwald said. "I thought we played really well as a team, unfortunately Crestwood's a really good team, too, and it didn't turn out the way we wanted."
The Quakers close out their season 18-7 overall. It is the third consecutive district final loss for Salem coach Allie Winner, and the program's fourth straight overall.
"All I asked of my girls is that they give it their all tonight," Winner said. "I'm very proud of how every single girl played. Crestwood is a really good team and I thought we responded to the challenge very well. We left the court with no regrets."
Winner's assessment was backed up on the stat sheet, as the Quakers got contributions up and down the roster. Camrin Costal had 10 kills and seven digs, Olivia Stiff had eight digs and two aces, Carson Herron had 31 assists and Kacey Costal had six kills.
"It was very even among all of our hitter and all of our defensive players, which makes a huge difference" Winner said. "I also thought Tori Jones, eventhough she didn't have the stats others had did a phenomenal job stepping in at key moments and making plays for us. Nobody really had a down night."
Crestwood caused problems with its size, leaping ability and spot-on passing. Holly Hoffman led the way with 41 assists five digs and three kills, while Morgan Strenk had 16 kills and five digs and Hayley Zigman had seven kills and five blocks.
"We tried to prepare for their blocking, but they were very tough," Lehwald said. "Their setter also put their big hitters in great position."
Out of the three close calls, the first set was by far the one that hurt Salem the most. Crestwood opened the game on fire, using an array of thunderous spikes to build a 10-3 lead, prompting Winner to call a quick timeout.
"They really jumped on us with their size," Winner said. "I reminded my girls that we are just as good as they are and that we couldn't play scared."
Salem broke the huddle and ripped off six straight points before eventually clawing ahead 24-21. However, with three chances to close out the set, the Quakers couldn't get it done. Three straight blocks helped the Red Devils seize the lead before closing out the set.
"I believe we would have lost the game if we didn't win that first set," Crestwood coach Brittany Mayle said. "We are an up-and-down team emotionally and if we would've given up that early lead and let them set the tone, I'm not sure we would have recovered. I think the match was determined on those last five points we won."
In the second set, the Quakers rallied from a 21-17 deficit to twice close within a point, but couldn't get over the hump. It was much the same in the third, as Salem held a 21-20 lead before Crestwood scored three straight to take the lead for good.
"It took us a little bit to get over the first set, but I'm proud of the way we regrouped. " Lehwald said. "We've had a tenancy to get down on ourselves when things get bad and let it effect the rest of the match, but tonight we kept fighting."
It was the last game for seniors Megan Lehwald, Sarah Smith, Carson Herron and Camrin Costal-all of whom played major roles this season.
"It was an honor to play with these girls," Lehwald said. "Reaching the district finals every year was a great experience. We had a lot of talent."
The West Branch volleyball team and coaching staff was also in attendance. The Warriors lost in straight sets three times this year to the Quakers.
"It was really exciting to see them here," Winner said. "That was very unexpected and was very nice of them to come out and support us."
Crestwood improves to 22-3 and will play Canal Fulton Northwest in the regional semifinals at 7:30 p.m. next Thursday at Stow-Munroe Falls High School.
Top-seeded Northwest outlasted 10th-seeded Tallmadge, 25-19, 25-21, 20-25, 23-25, 15-11, in the Tallmadge district final Thursday.