AMBOY — Luckily for the Seneca volleyball team, Mr. Momentum had a drastic change of heart on Thursday in the Class 2A Amboy Regional championship. After losing the first game to Newman Central Catholic 25-19, the Lady Irish rode a change in Mo en route to wins of 25-11 and 25-14 over the Comets.
"I know it means a lot for these girls, especially these seniors," Seneca coach Karen Raney said. "Nicole (Pihl) told me before the match that she is tired of finishing second. This year we've finished second in three tournaments. I wanted it so much for this team."
Pihl said that the runner-up syndrome went even deeper than that.
"In my volleyball career we had never been first in anything," she said. "That makes it pretty sweet to get first tonight."
Seneca struggled in the first game when it came to getting its hitters in the right place at the right time. Twelve times in the first game the Lady Irish made either on or two passes on the attack.
"We completely changed our passing after the first game," Seneca senior Aspen Stuedemann said. "In the first game it was not where it needed to be. But after that, our setters were putting it where we wanted it and the hitters were putting it on the ground."
While Newman started the match with an 8-2 lead, forcing a Seneca timeout, the second game was a complete reversal. The Irish were out to a 6-1 start leading to a Comets stoppage.
"Momentum is huge in volleyball. Usually it starts with a strong attacker on on a jump serve," Raney said. "When Mr. Mo starts to show up like that, watch out."
Seneca led by 10 through most of the second game before pulling away. Then in the third game, the Irish got four switch-kills from Pihl — kills on an opponents' serve — to grab the hardware.
"That is completely on the passers and we all know that," Raney said. "The game in won and lost in the back row, Madison Wyss did a nice job of distributing the ball tonight."
Wyss had 20 assists in the contest and Kayla Haines added seven.
"They had some pretty good servers, and obviously we want to stop the other team's servers," Pihl said. "That helps change the momentum."
Pihl ended with 12 kills, four digs and three blocks in the contest. Danielle Hauch had five kills, Chelsie McCormick 15 digs and Studemann 11 kills and seven blocks.
"This is amazing. We had never won anything until tonight and this is blowing my mind," Studemann said. "All I can say is that we deserve it."
It's the first regional title for Seneca since 2004. The Lady Irish will now be playing on Tuesday in their own sectional.
"We didn't want anyone else coming to our place to play on our court," Studemann said. "We wanted to take it and we did."
Seneca is now 26-8-3 on the season while Newman bows out at 22-12.
"Tonight we're taking it home," Raney said.