YORK TWP. — Clare Mewhinney was out of action for a month because of a concussion. Molly Galaszewski spent half of the season in the back row with multiple ankle fractures.
Both seniors made up for lost time when they returned and helped Buckeye repeat as Patriot Athletic Conference Stars Division volleyball champions.
Outside hitter Galaszewski hammered a match-high 18 kills and libero Mewhinney played sterling defense Thursday as the Bucks beat Black River 25-14, 25-14, 25-16 to claim a share of the league crown.
Buckeye (13-9, 10-6) won nine of its final 10 PAC matches to split the title with Brookside, which denied Firelands a piece of the championship with a four-set home triumph.
“Even when things didn’t look good this season, we always knew we could come back and win another championship,” said Mewhinney, who had nine digs and four assists. “It just took a while to get everybody healthy. Once that happened, we showed everybody what we were capable of doing from the start.”
Sophomore setter Kamiah Gibson had 33 assists, three kills and three aces, and freshman middle hitter Autumn Meyer collected 12 kills and a team-best five blocks for the Bucks.
Senior defensive specialists Nicole Figueroa and Elizabeth Whetstone also contributed in their final home contest with nine points and two aces, respectively, for interim coach Kara Joyce.
It was Buckeye’s sixth division title in the 14-season history of the PAC, which will dissolve at the end of the school year.
“We obviously wanted to win the championship, but we also wanted to make this last time on our court really enjoyable,” said Galaszewski, who led all players with four aces. “It’s just the way this team is. We like to go in the locker room before matches and sing and get hyped together because we love volleyball and being part of this group.”
Black River (8-14, 3-13), which knocked Keystone out of the title race three nights earlier, was eager to play spoiler against its archrival. It took a 10-9 lead in the opening set on a Sydney Simonson block/kill before the Bucks took over and scored 66 of the next 100 points.
Sophomore middle hitter Simonson finished with six kills and five blocks while battling shin splints, while junior Megan Owen continued her solid first year as a setter with 10 assists, four kills and two rejections.
Pirates senior outside hitter Morgan Young, playing with a heavily wrapped right thigh, added four kills and six points. Lacie Martin (shoulder), Taylor Hendershot (head) and Kirstie Kray (concussion) also were ailing.
“We’ve gotten really banged up over the last two weeks, but everyone still played hard and had a lot of fun,” Black River coach Courtney Dieter said. “The injuries did allow us to work on some different things, which should be helpful going into the tournament.
“I thought we made the most of our opportunity against a very talented Buckeye team, and I congratulate them on another fine season.”
Owen, who entered camp at outside hitter, added 10 digs in an impressive all-around showing. Now in her third varsity season, she is looking forward to the Pirates’ postseason opener against Elyria Catholic.
“Everyone is so scrappy, and we’re still playing happy,” a smiling Owen said. “There have been times when we couldn’t figure out how to win in the middle of the season, but we worked through them and found a way.
“We’re excited about the tournament, and (Simonson), Liv (Olivia Rayk) and I are ready to start JO so we can be even better for this team next year.”