STEUBENVILLE - If for whatever reason the OVAC Volleyball Championship Tournament was played a few weeks ago, the result of the Class A final may have been different.
Madonna, the reigning champion, was just caught on a bad day.
"It was a long day," said Blue Dons coach Jennifer Ewusiak.
FINISHES SECOND — Madonna senior Gabrielle Sellitti shakes hands with fellow senior Amanda Paul before Game 2 of the OVAC Class A Volleyball Championship Tournament. The Blue Dons advanced to the finals for the third-straight year but fell to Bellaire St. John in two sets.
With the OVAC regular season title already ensured, Madonna entered the tournament at Big Red's Crimson Court with a 15-game winning streak.
It continued with a three-set win over Trinity Christian in the semifinals.
"I told the girls to overcome the nerves of playing in a big tournament against a very good team," said Trinity coach Jennifer Hefner.
On Sept. 24, the Blue Dons beat the Warriors in two sets as part of three-team set with Wheeling Central.
"I thought we improved a lot since then," Hefner said.
Trinity collected eight-straight points in Game 1, overcoming an early four-point deficit, to win, 25-21. The Blue Dons had to fend off a five-point streak in Game 2 to but held on, 25-19, to force a deciding third game, which they won, 25-14.
Monica Bragg had 10 kills against the Warriors, while Amanda Paul tallied 16 digs. Chloe Conner added 18 assists, four points and three kills.
Emily Pietranton scored four aces, with seven digs.
Madonna could have used a time machine before taking on Bellaire St. John in the championship match.
The Fighting Irish edged Paden City in three sets before taking on the defending champs.
"We weren't quite sure what to expect," St. John coach Carrie Ramsey said, "but they really stepped up to the plate."
Madonna fell in two sets, 25-17 and 25-22.
"Some of them were just getting their serves in," Ewusiak said. "There was not any movement. That was not one of the toughest teams we've come up against.
"Our blocks weren't very good. It was just a bad day."
Lindsey Froelic, a 6-foot-3, sophomore middle hitter, led the Irish with nine kills, while Caitlin Sliva had nine points and Sydney Helms tallied 11 assists.
"It was a total team effort," Ramsey, the first-year head coach, said. "They all kept their heads in the game and they all picked each other up when they needed to. They got the job done."
A six-point run to go up 13-5 paced the Irish (18-4) in Game 2. Sliva, a junior, created two points off broken plays and used the net to her advantage, catching Madonna defenders flat-footed.
"We needed that confidence," Ramsey said. "They know they can perform at this level and it's going to guide us.
"For the stage and what was at stake, yes," she added when asked if it was the best game the team has played all year. "At the beginning of the year, they would have fell apart."
Bragg scored nine kills for the Blue Dons (20-3) in Game 2, with Paul adding 13 digs. Conner had 12 assists and five digs, Gabrielle Sellitti tallied four digs and two kills, while Pietranton had seven digs.
"It kind of tells you what needs to be worked on and where you can improve," Ewusiak said. "I'm proud of them. They worked really hard all season and they do work well together. It was just a bad day."
Madonna hosts Valley a 6 p.m. on Tuesday.
(Matthew Peaslee is a sports writer and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or followed on Twitter at @thempeas.)