Tuesday's sectional semifinal volleyball contest between Ashland and Sandusky could be summed up by SHS's nickname.
The Blue Streaks, well, streaked to a four-game victory, leaving the Arrows awfully blue after a sour season-ending loss.
After cruising in the opening game, the Arrows lost their grasp on a 21-16 lead in Game 2, then surrendered double-digit runs in each of the final two games to drop a 14-25, 27-25, 25-23, 25-15 decision.
"We talked at the beginning of the match that one of our goals was to limit the opponent to runs of three or fewer," Ashland coach Jenise Vaughn said, "and they got on a lot of runs there in the second, third and fourth games. That's what killed us."
For the Arrows (11-12), it is the first time they have not advanced to the district tournament since 2006.
That district streak seemed anything but in jeopardy in the early going Tuesday. With the score tied 4-4 early in the opening game, the Arrows reeled off 10 of the next 12 points to gain a 14-6 advantage. MacKenzie McFarlin (21 kills, 12 digs) powered down three kills during that stretch, and Amber Leininger (17 digs, three aces) tallied five straight service points.
Helen Steward's (36 assists, 16 digs, four kills) diving dig moments later set up a kill-block from McFarlin, putting Ashland up 19-9. The Arrows had no problem wrapping it up from there, ending the game on a Macey Davis (four kills, two aces) kill.
With Leininger again toeing the service line, Ashland broke a 15-15 tie in Game 2 with another five-point spurt.
But after a timeout during that span, the Blue Streaks began to find their footing, particularly on the defensive end.
In the game's final 15 points, Sandusky allowed just two Ashland spikes to find the hardwood, which set up Cara Croom (15 kills) and Capreece Irby (15 kills) to go to work at the net. Croom and Irby combined for five kills down the stretch, including the game-clincher.
"That has been a main focus for us all year long. I was telling them defense wins games," Sandusky coach Dana Weatherspoon said.
"I said to them, 'If we can just get that first line of defense to block it, then we'll be good to go.' They really stepped up and really just did it."
The final score in Game 2 was the first time Sandusky had a multiple-point lead in the contest, a momentum boost that carried over after the teams changed ends.
The Blue Streaks never trailed in Game 3 and scored 10 unanswered points to snatch control at 16-6. The 10-point margin still intact at 23-13, the Arrows made a run behind McFarlin to close within 24-23, but Sandusky held on with a shot that skimmed the net and dribbled over, catching Ashland off guard.
"They scored on some unconventional plays, and that threw us off," said Vaughn, who also got nine kills from Logan Lucas and eight digs from Kaela Allton. "We also made a couple too many unforced errors. Unfortunately, we couldn't come back from them."
McFarlin opened the final game with four early kills to help Ashland build a 9-4 lead, but it again went by the wayside. Sandusky gradually worked its way back to 12-12, then re-knotted the score at 15 on a kill set up by Sara Sidoti (30 assists).
In control of the serve, the Blue Streaks did not lose another point, as Ashland committed a handful of errors and helped Sandusky to complete an 11-point, match-ending run.
"All year long we haven't been able to put three whole sets together for a match," Weatherspoon said. "I'm just super proud of them."