The Grove City High School girls volleyball team turned in a better performance in its rematch against DeSales.
Unfortunately for the Greyhounds, the result was the same.
Grove City lost to DeSales 25-19, 25-17, 25-7 in its season opener Aug. 24. It managed to win the first game against the Stallions in a Division I regional semifinal Oct. 30 at Hilliard Davidson, but lost 22-25, 25-21, 25-19, 25-20.
"I think we may have surprised them with how well we played, especially in the first game, because they beat us early in the season at our place and they hadn't seen how much we've progressed since then," coach Alan Pham said of the Stallions, who were ranked fourth in the final Division I state poll and were the top seed in the district. "But give DeSales credit because they stayed in their system and made (scoring) runs when they needed to."
Holding a 15-13 lead in the second game, Grove City had an opportunity to go up two games against DeSales in the tournament match, but the Stallions rallied to win the game and, ultimately, the match.
Junior outside hitter Amanda Radich had 24 kills in the regional semifinal to lead the Greyhounds. Junior setter Andrea Miller had a team-high 37 assists and junior libero Haven Kulp had a team-high 24 digs.
"Our kids were aggressive and we played hard through the entire match," Pham said. "But we don't have any seniors, and our inexperience showed a little bit when things got tight later in the match and we lost our composure a little bit. In the second, third and fourth games, DeSales was able to put us back on our heels a little more and get us out of system."
The loss capped a record-breaking season for Grove City, which set the program mark for wins in finishing 22-3 overall. Its third loss came against Mount Vernon, 25-23, 18-25, 25-21 on Sept. 14.
The Greyhounds also won their first league and district championships.
Grove City went 14-0 in the OCC-Ohio Division to finish ahead of Lancaster (12-2), Pickerington North (10-4), Gahanna (8-6), Newark (6-9), Pickerington Central (3-11), Groveport (2-12) and Reynoldsburg (1-13).
The Greyhounds defeated Lancaster 25-21, 25-16, 22-25, 18-25, 16-14 on Sept. 12 and 25-13, 25-20, 30-32, 25-13 on Oct. 8.
Seeded fourth in the district, Grove City defeated 36th-seeded Upper Arlington 25-17, 25-16, 27-25 in the first round Oct. 14, 31st-seeded Westland 25-20, 25-17, 25-15 in the second round Oct. 16, 10th-seeded New Albany 25-22, 25-23, 25-19 in a semifinal Oct. 17 and sixth-seeded Westerville Central 18-25, 25-15, 25-21, 25-15 in a final Oct. 26 at Bloom-Carroll.
"We've had a fire under us all year and we've had a lot of firsts this season," Radich said. "Beating Lancaster twice to win our league was a big highlight and winning our first district title was another one. We were extremely determined and this was our best year ever."
Grove City expects to keep its lineup intact for next season, as it has no seniors on its roster.
Among the expected return-ees are Kulp, Miller, Radich, junior middle hitter Sarah Mitcham and sophomore outside hitter Rae-Kelly Hamilton.
Radich (365 kills, 23 aces, 21 blocks, 217 digs) was named first-team all-district and OCC-Ohio Player of the Year and Kulp (471 digs, 26 aces) was second-team all-district and first-team all-league.
Miller (471 assists, 211 digs, 17 blocks, 82 kills, 24 aces) was named second-team all-league and Mitcham (125 kills, 87 digs, 45 blocks, 60 aces) and Hamilton (212 kills, 139 digs, 43 aces, 24 blocks) were special mention and honorable mention all-league, respectively.
Pham was named OCC-Ohio Coach of the Year.
Also expected to return are junior opposite hitter Kayla Ekers (31 kills, 7 blocks), sophomore middle hitter Jorian George (134 kills, 35 blocks), sophomore defensive specialist Haley Litman (200 digs, 53 aces) and freshman opposite hitter Gina Conti (81 kills, 18 blocks).
"We have everyone coming back, so I think we can top this season and go even further next year," Radich said.