It was a heartbreaking end to a successful season for the Nordonia volleyball team.
The top-seeded Knights lost to second-seeded Solon in the Solon Division I district final for the second year in a row.
This year’s championship match, played on Saturday, came by a 20-25, 25-19, 25-22, 23-25, 16-14 score.
Nordonia ended the season with a 21-4 record but still was unable to grab that elusive district title, which would have been the Knights’ first in volleyball in more than 30 years.
"We went in to the match with a really good mindset," Nordonia head coach Lori Snider said. "I think everybody on our team knew they had to work hard, and that if we worked hard and left it all on the court, good things were going to happen. And the girls did work hard and left it all on the court, but unfortunately we just came up a couple points short. Everyone played a great match, though.
"Obviously, it was a disappointing loss, not in how we played but in the end result. It was a hard loss. The fifth set was back and forth for the first five or six points. Then Solon broke away a little bit when one girl in particular was serving. We made a couple errors, too. When we were able to fight our way back to 14-14, at that point it was fun but nerve-racking. Solon played well."
Leading the way for Nordonia were senior setter/outside hitter Madison Knight and junior outside hitter Joy Banks. Knight had 36 assists and five aces, while Banks recorded 25 kills.
"I think Madison went out giving everything she had in her last match of her high-school career. She did a great job, but it just wasn’t quite enough," said Snider. "Joy got a lot of opportunities, and Solon couldn’t really stop her. She did what she does. I couldn’t ask for any more out of her."
Senior right-side hitter Riley Watroba had 18 digs, and junior middle hitter Aleana Mason contributed three blocks.
Nordonia qualified for the title match Oct. 22 by defeating fifth-seeded Twinsburg in the district semifinals 25-8, 25-21, 25-16.
"I thought we played pretty well," Snider said. "We came out strong, then kind of lost our focus in set two, but then in set three we turned it back around. I was pleased overall. It’s hard to beat a team three times in one season."
Knight had 23 assists, while Banks totaled 10 kills, seven aces and three blocks.
"Madison is really consistent and has grown as a setter," Snider said. "Joy’s serving was on-point in that match. She just continues to do what she does every time we play. She leads us offensively."
Watroba had 13 digs, and Mason and sophomore middle hitter Mya Sopata each recorded 10 kills.
"I think Riley and Madison in particular have been playing well because, in tournament, you don’t know when it’s going to be your last match," said the coach. "That was one of the best matches that Aleana has played. We needed to get her the ball more, and we did. We gave her more opportunities. She got more sets than she usually does, and she definitely capitalized on them.
"Mya and Riley have been working a ton on their timing. Some of the plays we’ve implemented have helped Mya get a few more looks during the matches."
Despite the tough defeat, Snider said it was a great season.
"Obviously, no one wants to lose, but unless you win state you’re going to lose your last match," she said. "I’m so proud of these girls. It was probably one of the most fun teams I’ve ever coached."