Controversy mars Bunnies' victory
LeROY — Fourth grade.
That's how old the current crop of Fisher volleyball seniors were the last time the Bunnies won a regional championship in 2003.
And they all played a crucial role at various times as the second-seeded Bunnies outlasted top-seeded Lexington 16-25, 28-26, 25-22 Thursday night in a thrilling, albeit controversial, ending to the Class 1A LeRoy Regional final.
"I am so ecstatic that we were able to do it," said Hannah Fink, Fisher's senior outside hitter who contributed nine kills. "We've been wanting to do this all four years, and now we're the senior class that was able to do it. It'll just stick with us for the rest of our lives."
With Fisher leading 24-22 and holding serve in the third set, Lexington coach Julie Strating tried to substitute senior Bridgette Sims back into the match. Sims came out late in the second set with a chin injury and had not played since leaving.
She hit her head on a diving dig attempt, but because LeRoy had no certified medical personnel available at Dud Berry Gymnasium, Sims was not cleared to play.
The side official did not have Sims on her lineup card, and when she tried to substitute in, the officials ruled it was an illegal substitution, giving Fisher (17-13) a point, which ultimately ended up being match point. Lexington players were inconsolable leaving the court, and the Bunnies enjoyed an odd and quiet celebration not seen often after regional championships.
"I wish we could just go back and play it fair and square," said Carli Clifton, a Fisher junior whose kill gave the Bunnies the lead for good at 21-20 in the third set. "I didn't really think that was fair. I thought the refs should have let us play it out instead of just letting us win like that."
Strating argued on the court about ending the match that way, a bizarre scenario to a match that had plenty of emotional twists and turns.
"For those young girls, it's tragic to them," Strating said of the Minutemen (23-13). "It was their dream. For me, frustrating is a good word. For me, to play the third game without a regular starter (in Sims) was equally frustrating because they didn't have a trainer here."
Senior middle hitter Jacy Cochran was a strong presence at the net all night for Fisher with 11 kills and 10 blocks, and senior Josie Ralph had 19 assists and six aces. Senior libero Aubrey Pettenger had 24 digs and six aces for the Bunnies.
"I think that we really did awesome playing as a team tonight," Fink said. "We came together and stayed together the whole game. I think everybody contributed something."