ELIDA -- The Buckeye Central Buckettes appear to be a team on a mission, leaving some very good opponents in their wake.
The Buckettes almost made it look easy as they dispatched the McComb Panthers in three games, 25-23, 25-18, 25-20 to win the Division IV Regional volleyball tournament at the Elida Field House.
It is impressive how this most recent edition of Buckeye Central spikers goes about its business with a quiet confidence.
"They know they can play," Buckeye Central coach Bill Bonham said. "No matter what the score is, they realize the game is won one point at a time. They believe they can win every point."
Based on their tournament run so far, it would be hard to argue. The Buckettes have lost only one game in six post-season matches that included second-ranked Norwalk St. Paul.
The result is the BC's 10th appearance in the state Final Four, putting Buckeye Central (26-2) in rarefied air among the elite volleyball programs in the state.
"They were outstanding," McComb coach Leslie Kahle said. "I didn't think we played nearly hard enough to beat a team of that caliber."
The Panthers showed why they had made it to the regional final. McComb (23-4) led much of both the first and third games, as late as 15-14 in the first game and 18-17 in the third after not having trailed in either to those points.
But the Buckettes simply wore them down. Though outsized by the Panthers, BC used the coach's strategy.
"We wanted to use defense and aggressive serving," Bonham said. "We knew they had big girls and they are good offensively. We wanted to frustrate them and get the momentum."
It worked in that, despite leads late in two of three games, McComb could not put the Buckettes away.
Still, Kahle was happy with to have made it to the Elite Eight.
"I think we went farther than anyone thought we would," Kahle said. "This will drive the underclassmen in years to come. We play in a tough league (Blanchard Valley Conference). We were runners-up in the BVC and we made it to the regional final."
Hannah Bundy and Maddy Roth had 19 and 16 digs, respectively, to lead the Panthers. Brenna Dee had 19 assists and Jenna Huffman added 11 kills.
"We've had different players step up all year," Bonham said. "Today, I challenged our setters, Kilee Kimmel and Emily Weithman. We told them the outcome was based on their performance. We had to be in position to make the right play."
Kimmel finished with 21 assists and Weithman had 19. Brooke Karl came up with 21 digs, while Sammi Marcum had 14 kills and six digs. Madison Williams was 24 of 24 serving with seven aces, 13 digs and 13 kills.
"Five of these girls had sisters on the last state team in 2008," Bonham said. "They know what it takes."
The five, along with the rest of the Buckettes, will get to find out first-hand on Friday at 2 p.m. when the tangle with Maria Stein Marion Local in the opening round of the state tournament at the Nutter Center in Dayton.
* Ticket sales: Tickets for the Buckeye Central state tournament game on Friday versus state power Maria Stein Marion Local will be on sale at the high school Tuesday and Wednesday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Thursday 9 a.m. to noon. Game time is 2 p.m.