WELLSBURG - Championship teams are built on experience. It's the seniors who have played in the big games that know how to keep their composure when times get tough.
So when Madonna saw Paden City come from behind and take the second set to tie the Class 1A OVAC Volleyball Championship Game on Saturday, the Blue Dons didn't panic.
"I just told them play like they know how to play," first-year coach Jennifer Ewusiak said. "We are a good team. We just made some mistakes we shouldn't have."
Then, behind its four seniors and a couple of key blocks from Monica Bragg, Madonna came together to defeat the Wildcats, 25-17, in the third set to lay claim to the championship trophy.
"We're beyond excited," Ewusiak said. "We've been so much better this season than I thought we would."
On the other side of the court, Paden City coach Fred King didn't feel the sting of a loss, but pride for a young team.
Madonna d. Beallsville 25-27, 25-22, 25-18
Paden City d. St. John 23-25, 25-14, 25-19
Madonna d. Paden City 25-21, 232-25, 25-17
Beallsville d. St. John 27-25, 27-25
"For us to be here, I'm pretty happy," King said. "We probably shouldn't be here with a freshman-sophomore laden team.
"Madonna has got a very good volleyball team and for us to get one from them, I felt pretty good about that."
The Blue Dons were able to take the first set, 25-21, before going ahead 23-18 in the second, only to see Paden City comeback and win 25-23.
However, both squads had grown accustomed to close games as neither had an easy path to the championship game.
The No. 1-seeded Blue Dons were nearly upset by No. 4-seed Beallsville after falling in the first set 27-25, in the semifinals.
Madonna, however, was able to pull it together and get victories of 25-22 and 25-18 to punch their ticket to the finals.
"I didn't know what to expect from (Beallsville)," Ewusiak said. "I saw their record, but I've never seen them play or heard anything about them. I knew since they were in the top four they would be a good team, but I just didn't know what to expect from them."
On court No. 2, second-seeded Paden City had its hands full with No. 3 St. John, but was able to defeat the Irish, 23-25, 25-14, 25-19.
"We dove, we scrapped and we kept balls alive," King said. "Everyone did something great several times in the first match. In the second match, we got up against a better foe. A couple times we were lazy at the net and at crucial times when we could have gone up four or five, we went down two. Those are big plays. We didn't have control of the net, but overall I am very happy and very positive about our teams progress."
The opposite played out last season on the courts at Brooke as Paden City swept Madonna, 25-14, 25-18, on its way to the OVAC crown.
Madison Stephen had 11 points, five aces and four kills for the Wildcats. Anna Jones added five points and three kills and Laikyn Tubaugh totaled six points.
Leading the way for the Blue Dons was Nicolette Selletti with seven aces. Bragg added five kills and seven blocks.
Beallsville won the consultation round as the Blue Devils defeated St. John, 27-25, 27-25.