By SCOTT COTTOS
With a win over Otsego on Thursday night, Fostoria High School would win the Northern Buckeye Conference championship outright. A loss would mean sharing the title.
“We don’t like to share,” FHS senior standout Tyriana Settles joked.
And the Lady Red played as though that were true, as Settles recorded 30 kills to guide her team to a 25-15, 25-22, 25-14 victory and the first Fostoria championship in any sport in the NBC since the conference began competition in 2011.
The triumph boosted FHS’ record to 19-3 overall with a 13-1 NBC mark. In addition to the title being the first in the NBC for Fostoria, it’s the first in any sport since 2009 in the Northern Ohio League and the first in volleyball since 1978 in the Great Lakes League.
“It’s exciting,” said senior Meredith Grine, who rehabilitated from a torn ACL sustained playing basketball in January to contribute to the title run. “I can’t wait to come back and see my year up on a banner and tell everybody, ‘That was my team.'”
Otsego, which would have shared the conference title with a win, finished the regular season at 16-6 overall and 11-3 in the NBC.
Winning the conference title was among the goals the Lady Red set for the season, and they got in done in convincing fashion in front of a large, enthusiastic crowd.
“I’m just absolutely speechless,” FHS coach Krissy Lotycz said. “For what we’ve done in four years — we’ve come so close in some of our matches. It just feels amazing that your hard work, dedication and determination finally paid off. … It’s just an unbelievable feeling.”
Otsego’s ambition of claiming a title share melted under the glare of the spotlight, according to coach Cheryl Jones.
“The better team won tonight,” she said. “I have to give it to Fostoria. They played with heart. They wanted this. You could see the fire in their eyes. What I told the girls was, ‘We played with fear, and fear does not do you any good.’
Jones noted that she has a largely young team, with one of her three seniors, setter Maddi Nell, being an exceptional player.
“But, you know, they choked, pure and simple,” she said. “You’ve got to want to love the heat, and they were rattled by the heat. One thing they were getting upset about was the crowd, with their fans. I said, ‘That’s OK, don’t tell me our kids don’t ever do that.’ That’s mental toughness. If you’re really tough you shouldn’t even be hearing that. So, come on, stop making excuses.'”
Settles said the Lady Red declared before the match that “we won’t share this because we’ve been underdogs for so many years.”
And they proceeded to turn in a dominant performance.
“I think taking that first set took some wind out of their sails,” Lotycz said. “Taking the second set took some wind out of their sails. And, definitely, in that third set, we continued to roll in that one.”
The Lady Red spotted Otsego the first two points of the match, and they held a 15-14 lead before three Settles kills and three Knights mistakes put FHS in front 21-14. Settles later served out the set with three consecutive aces.
Otsego led 5-1 in the second set, but Fostoria rallied and led from 13-11 until the Knights forged a tie at 22. A Otsego net violation was followed by a hitting error, and Settles ended the set with a kill.
The Lady Red led 4-3 before Zoe Rice stepped to the service line. The sophomore then recorded four aces and Settles supplied points with two spikes, a tip and a block in a run that boosted the advantage to 16-3. Otsego didn’t cut the lead below 10 points the rest of the way.
Settles was 55-for-60 attacking and added six aces, 10 digs and three blocks to her night’s work. Mary Harris had 40 assists and Rice finished with five aces. Harris, Rice, Baleigh Robinson and Dashani Taylor joined Settles with 10 digs.
Brynne Limes notched 12 kills, two aces and 14 digs for the Knights. Hannah Smoyer also had a pair of aces and Nell handed out 22 assists.
OTSEGO (16-6, 11-3 NBC)
ACES: Brynne Limes 2. KILLS: Limes 12, Ellie Roberts 7. ASSISTS: Maddi Nell 22. DIGS: Limes 14, Nell & Janelle Moser 10.
fostoria (19-3, 13-1 NBC)
SERVING: Zoe Rice 30-30, Meredith Grine 9-9, Dashani Taylor 6-6. ACES: Tyriana Settles 6, Rice 5, Grine 1. KILLS: Settles 30, Baleigh Robinson 3, Taylor 2. SPIKING: Settles 55-60. ASSISTS: Mary Harris 40. SETTING: Harris 77-80. DIGS: Settles, Harris, Robinson, Rice & Taylor 10. BLOCKS: Settles 3, Grine 2.
JUNIOR VARSITY: Otsego, 25-22, 25-11.