VINCENT - Going into Thursday night's Southeastern Ohio Athletic League and regular-season volleyball finale, all the Logan Lady Chiefs could do was concentrate on what they could control.
Logan needed to win at Warren (that they could control) and get a Jackson victory at league-leading Gallia Academy (that, obviously, they couldn't) to earn a share their first SEOAL title in 20 years.
Neither came to pass.
By the time the Lady Chiefs had dropped the first two sets to Warren (25-14, 25-14), the Blue Angels had already swept Jackson (25-10, 25-17, 25-14) to clinch the outright championship.
The Lady Chiefs came back to win the third set (25-15) but, as was the case most of the evening, couldn't put together any momentum and dropped the fourth and final set (25-18) as Warren earned a 3-1 Senior Night victory.
Warren (11-9 overall, 6-2 SEOAL) thus finished second behind Gallipolis (7-1 SEOAL) while the Lady Chiefs (11-11, 5-3) had to settle for third... and each team could look back at one key loss that kept them from winning at least a share of the title.
Logan dropped a five-set home match to Gallia Academy back on Sept. 9 and, one week later, the Purple & White dropped the Lady Warriors in another five-setter in Jim Myers Gymnasium.
Warren did not let Thursday night's match go five sets this time as the Lady Warriors celebrated their Senior Night with a victory, like the Lady Chiefs did the previous evening when they swept Federal Hocking 25-15, 25-16, 25-16 in Jim's Gym.
"I was concerned with how we would respond, being Senior Night (Wednesday) and playing back-to-back (nights) at the end of the season when you're mentally tired," said Logan coach Kira Brooks, "and tonight was all mental.
"We started off with a lot of unforced errors (and) a lot of net calls," she added. "It was hard for either side to get any momentum. The crowd just wasn't into it tonight, and it was very hard to find any energy to feed off of. We had to create it ourselves."
And even when they did, the Lady Chiefs couldn't sustain it.
"Mel (Starlin) hit the hardest (kill, in the second set) I've seen all season - from anybody - and we just didn't get too excited," Brooks said. After losing the first two sets, "we came out in game three and I said 'all I ask is that you (Lady Chiefs) do your best, regardless of the outcome.' And they did. They played really well and took charge in that third set, then the fourth set started off bad."
The Lady Chiefs fell behind 5-0 at the outset of the first set. They managed to draw even (8-8), and trailed just 15-13 a bit later, before Warren finished the set with a 10-1 run.
Adrienne Lang had a couple big kills during that stretch, and Natalie Knowlton served out the final three points of the set, getting two on unforced Logan errors and getting an ace on set point when the Lady Chiefs hit the return into the low-hanging roof and couldn't get it under control.
Then, after taking an 8-5 advantage in the second set, Warren's Kaylee Higgins served eight points (including two aces) in a 9-0 Lady Warriors run, during which Victoria Buzzard stepped up with a couple kills and Logan made three more unforced errors.
Logan never got any closer than five points the rest of the way, and Hailey Murdock - one of Warren's three seniors - served out the final two points, with Buzzard earning set point with a kill off a nifty soft drop shot.
The Lady Chiefs took command of the third set early and never let it get away.
Alexis Snyder came on strong, as she and Mackenzie Mays both had a pair of kills as Logan took an early 6-1 edge.
Mays, Grace Seibel and Starlin all had kills as Logan extended its lead to 21-12, with Storee Smith serving four-straight points as Logan took full command. Warren never got any closer than seven, and Seibel's solid spike killed off set point.
But Logan simply could not sustain that momentum as unforced miscues piled up in the fourth set. Senior Taylor Foy had four kills and Buzzard and Lang three apiece as Warren used an 11-2 run to open an early eight-point advantage.
The Lady Chiefs came oh-so-close to pulling even, however, as Smith later served three-straight points, getting two of them on kills by Mays and Samantha Studer, as the Purple & White rallied to narrow the gap to 16-15.
But a kill by Buzzard stopped the outburst and, though Logan kept it close for awhile (17-16, 18-17 and 19-18), the Lady Chiefs were unable to tie the set. Then, after a Logan net violation, Danielle Lambert served out the final five Warren points, with a thunderous spike by Lang giving the Lady Warriors a huge momentum boost, and Foy finished it off with a kill for match point.
For the Lady Chiefs, it would be very easy to look back and wonder "what if," especially that early-September five-set loss to Gallipolis in Jim's Gym... but Brooks doesn't want her team doing so. Instead, she wants them to look ahead to Central District Division I tournament competition as they prepare to host Columbus Whetstone Monday night on their home court.
"You can look back and think (about the home loss to Gallipolis), but then I tell the girls not to look back, make sure they go out with no regrets and just be aggressive, Brooks said. "That's what I want them to do; if you're being aggressive and making mistakes, I'm not going to say stop being aggressive. Obviously, I want them to play smart."
Mays accounted for 19 points for the Lady Chiefs while Seibel added 10 and Snyder eight. Seibel had three service aces.
Foy had 16 points for Warren, Lambert 12, Buzzard 11 and Lang nine, and Foy, Lambert and Higgins all served a trio of aces.