Stephanie Bindernagel and Amy Pilat collapsed to the floor as they always do after a big win.
Taylor Curtis put her arms in the air and jumped up and down as the rest of the Lady Bombers cleared the bench and stormed the court.
Just before the jubilee, Newell had delivered what appeared to be the match-ending kill in the fifth game of the Division I regional semifinals as she took a swing, snapped her wrist and followed through.
The ball landed in bounds on the opposite side of the court.
The head Ohio High School Athletic Association official motioned her right arm, appearing to award Kenston the game-winning point, 16-14.
The scoreboard operator merited the Lady Bombers the point.
On the other side of the net, the Lady Arrows from Toledo St. Ursula Academy held back tears and a few dropped to the hardwood in shock, as it was their first taste of defeat this season. They entered the contest at 26-0 and ranked No. 1 in Ohio, according to the coaches association.
St. Ursula was seeking its 10th trip to the state final four since 2000, and it appeared to have ended in the round of 16.
But moments later, according to those present at the match, the head official raised her opposite arm, ruling a lift on Newell’s attack.
The scoreboard operator adjusted the score, 15-15, and it was play on.
The head official, Diane Cavanaugh, was unavailable for comment in time for publication.
Kenston’s Kosiorek said the call was made late.
“We were on the ground celebrating. The parents were turned around celebrating. Like, Toledo St. Ursula did not even question that it was a lift,” she said. “They were standing there, about to walk off the court in shock that they lost. They did not even try to argue that it was a lift at all. The call, it was delayed. If you go on our website, there’s pictures of us celebrating as we won. Five seconds later, (the official) was like, ‘No, it was a lift.’ It was horrible.”
Just like that, Kenston had to hit the reset button in a hurry, despite having no timeouts left. On the other side of the net, the Lady Arrows had renewed hopes and a second chance to keep their season alive.
Taking advantage of the call in their favor, the Lady Arrows persevered and went on to win, 20-18. The agony of defeat switched to Kenston’s side of the court, and remained there.
Kenston first-year head coach Steve Scherlacher didn’t go into detail about the controversial call but indicated that he did not agree with it.
“I think there was two people in the gym who thought it was a lift,” he said, referring to the officials. “That’s it. Everyone else thought it was legal.”
Photos posted on the Kenston High School website didn’t show any of the six Lady Arrows on the court at the time of Newell’s attack looking over at the lead official to question the original call in Kenston’s favor, as opposing volleyball players often do when they think there is an illegal hit.
St. Ursula head coach John Buck, however, was quoted in the Toledo Blade saying that he believes Newell’s hit was a carry.
“We were screaming that it was a throw, which is an illegal hit,” Buck said.
“She (the official) called it right away, but, oh my gosh, it could have easily went the other way. If she swings and hits that instead of carrying it, the match is over.”
According to the National Federation of State High School Associations’ volleyball rulebook, the ball must be hit cleanly and not caught or thrown. Prolonged contact with the ball is a fault.
Kosiorek, who was the closest player to Newell at the time of attack, said nothing about Newell’s hit constituted a foul.
“Her wrist was snapped,” she said. “A lift is when you carry the ball. So it’s kind of like you push the ball over and use your whole hand to push the ball over. It obviously wasn’t a lift, because her wrist was snapped, and it didn’t look like a lift. You know, we got robbed.”
Kosiorek made her comments during Friday’s Kenston football game at Aurora, two days after the volleyball loss, yet she still had to hold back tears while talking about the defeat.
“We put everything out there,” she said. “I’ve played with a lot of nationally ranked teams, and I’ve played in national matches, and that was the first time in any game in my life where I could feel so much just heart and emotion on that floor, because every single girl wanted to win so badly, and we did win. And, just, it’s horrible.”
She paused to hold back tears from her watery eyes.
“Like literally, I can’t even talk about it,” she continued. “Like, we won. We won that game, and it was taken away from us in two seconds. It’s horrible. It’s absolutely just devastating.”
Despite the loss, Scherlacher said it was the best he’s seen the Lady Bombers play all season. After all, Kenston did push the No. 1-ranked team in Ohio to the brink of elimination.
Not to mention, St. Ursula Academy is ranked in the top 10 nationally.
“A lot of the kids felt it was the best match they played in their careers at Kenston,” Scherlacher said. “They talked about playing with a lot of heart, with a lot of passion, and the coaching staff is extremely proud of them. I’m sure the whole community is.”
Kenston School Board President Anne Randall supported that claim.
Randall rarely misses a game. She also attends the majority of football and basketball games, among other scholastic sporting events.
The No. 1 thing Randall wanted to emphasize is that high school sports are huge nights of enjoyment, she said.
“I get hooked on these kids. I get hooked on these teams,” she said. “They’re all out there trying their best, and it doesn’t matter what sport. These events are just terrific.”
As a big underdog against St. Ursula, Kenston fans were just hoping to win one game in the best-of-five match, Randall said.
But after winning the second and third games, the Lady Bombers owned a 2-1 advantage against their private-school opponents.
“We’re all turned around in the stands like, ‘Oh, my gosh. You don’t suppose?'” Randall said. “Well, then we lose the fourth, and we go, ‘Oh, shoot. That was our time to go get them,’ because of the momentum switch.”
In the fifth and final game, the fans were on the edge of their seats with the smell of an upset stimulating their taste buds, Randall said.
“We get to 15-14, and I’m telling you, what Emily (Newell) did, it was not a push,” Randall said. “She jumps up, and she does a quick ‘Poof,’ like that. We win the point, and the girls are rolling around on the floor kissing and hugging and crying. The other team is all crying, because they lost. You’re just hung in suspense of time. And all of the sudden, it’s like, ‘Wait a minute. What’s going on here?’ They called it back?”
After the overturned call, the Lady Arrows snuck away with the victory and advanced to the regional finals on Saturday, when they defeated Strongsville in four sets.
This Friday, St. Ursula will play Columbus St. Francis DeSales in the state semifinals at Wright State University’s Nutter Center.
Change of brackets
The way the OHSAA volleyball tournament was aligned last year, Kenston and St. Ursula would not have played until the state championship game. Both teams advanced and lost in the 2012 state semifinals.
This year, however, the regional brackets were realigned.
Kenston volleyball now plays out of the Solon District, which used to be part of the Hudson Regional.
For an unknown reason, the Solon District got moved to the Broadview Heights Regional this year, which meant Kenston had to play a team located 130 miles away – Toledo St. Ursula – in a contest that’s supposed to be “regional.”
Instead of the Solon District remaining in the Hudson Regional, sites that are less than 10 miles apart, districts from much farther away got the alignment to compete at Hudson.
The Uniontown District, 20 miles away, the Barberton District, 24 miles away, and the Euclid District, 33 miles away, all got aligned to play at the Hudson Regional.
So instead of the Solon District being 10 miles away from a regional site in Hudson, it got realigned to be 20 miles away from its regional site in Broadview Heights.
Life is a lesson
The Kenston volleyball players are extremely disappointed, and it’s going to take time to get over the loss, Scherlacher said.
“This one match or even this one season doesn’t define any of our players,” he said. “They put a whole lot of effort into it for four years, and they’re extremely disappointed, but they’re very proud of the effort they put into it. I believe that, if you give it your all and you work very hard, you can walk away proud of whatever the result is.”
People in all walks of life have to cope with disappointment, Scherlacher said.
Unfortunately, life isn’t always fair, he said.
“Hopefully, what we learned from it is that in the future we don’t put ourselves in a position where a subject of opinion will affect the outcome of anything we’re doing, whether it’s on the court or off the court,” he said. “We want to leave no doubt that the subject of opinion can affect anything that we do. That’s going to be one of the goals of our program going forward.”
What’s left to say?
Sometimes bad memories tend to dwarf the good ones in the immediate aftermath of a devastating life experience, but, in the long run, it’s the good memories that last a lifetime, Randall said.
“What do you say to kids who are asking how the ref can control that? It was incredulous. You feel this, in the gym, this emotional swing. It was palpable,” she said. “So I was thinking, what would I say if I was talking to these kids?”
Randall said the current seniors had a great run, extending the program’s Chagrin Valley Conference win streak to 110 games and making school’s first Division I final-four appearance in 2012.
“So I would emphasize that they savor all the positive highlights. It’s a bitter pill to swallow, but that’s sports. That’s just life. There’s a lot of bitter pills in life, and this is just one of them,” she said. “But that’s why you play sports. It’s a life lesson. So I would say that, after this initial sting, they’ll be able to look back and be proud, because look what they’ve done. They’ve done just terrific things.”
Victory was theirs
One memory Kosiorek said she’ll never forget is watching the “Miracle” speech with her teammates before last week’s game against St. Ursula.
The Lady Bombers’ watched the segment of 2004 film “Miracle,” when U.S.A. Olympic hockey coach Herb Brooks, played by actor Kurt Russell, addressed his team before upsetting the Soviets in the 1980 Games.
“The coach was talking about the Soviets, who were all professionals,” Kosiorek said. “Like, ‘Great moments come from great opportunities. If we played them 10 times, they’d win nine. But not this game. Tonight, we’re winning.’ And that’s kind of how I thought of it. We won. It’s absolutely devastating.”
Kosiorek paused again.
“Talking about it still, I’m almost in tears. But we beat them fair and square,” she said. “They know and we know that we won, and I’ll never forget that.”
Response from OHSAA
I have talked with multiple people who witnessed this play including coaches, fans and officials. I was actually on the phone with the First Referee when I received your first email forwarded by Tim Stried. I have not seen the play. We are waiting for a DVD from the Toledo Cable Station.
From what I have heard I believe these to be the facts to the best of my knowledge.
1. The First Referee did not overturn a call. She feels she immediately gave the point signal in the direction of St. Ursula. She is not sure why the teams and the scoreboard operator reacted as they did. Hopefully the DVD will show this signal and the timing of it. I also hope the DVD has a good angle on the contact by the player.
She called an illegal contact per Rule 9-4-5:
ART. 5 . . . Legal contact is a touch of the ball by any part of a player’s body which does not allow the ball to visibly come to rest or involve prolonged contact with a player’s body.
This is a judgment call. I can not comment about the contact without seeing it.
OHSAA Officials use the NFHS Rules Book, the NFHS Case Book, the NFHS Manual, a required State Meeting, and Required Local Meetings that include various videos and power points as training resources.
DoD for Volleyball Officiating
Providing some closure
Sometimes…sometimes…a sports team defies expectation.
On the clear fall evening of October 30, 2013, it happened.
The Kenston High School volleyball team stunned northern Ohio.
A pride of local girls beat a private, city-wide, nationally ranked all-star team.
Chance – ever present in sports as in life – prevented a victory being recorded,
but all those present that night, and all those from far and wide who heard of this event,
Felt the lift.
A group of girls shaking the floor with their will.
A coaching staff believing that when there is hope a team can be driven upward.
Parents, school administration, fans and a body of fellow students who
“Believed we would win”.
Choose to mentally strike down your bitterness over a referee making an error.
Humans can always make mistakes,
but a truth witnessed cannot be denied.
A heroic gang of local girls prevailed over a giant,
with a spirit that was glorious.
They lifted high…a team…a school…a community.
By Rusty Kosiorek