Father Ryan falls short in volleyball finals

Friday, October 30, 2009 at 4:05pm

MURFREESBORO — For the third straight year, Father Ryan has fallen just short of the state volleyball kingdom.

The Irish, after being bumped into the losers bracket Thursday night by St. Benedict at Auburndale, then lost to the Eagles 25-22, 25-20, 26-24 in the DII-AA finals Friday afternoon on the MTSU courts.

“They (St. Benedict) were so quick, so athletic on their front and they missed very few kills,’’ said Coach Jinx Cockerham whose team ended 40-10. “They have two outstanding front row hitters who do a great job of finishing.’’

Ryan had lost in the finals the past two seasons to Chattanooga GPS, a team the Irish beat in four games in sectionals. The school was seeking its fifth championship, the last in 2006.

Ryan got to the finals this week and beat Ensworth, then knocked out old rival Baylor in the losers bracket finals. But they couldn’t repeat a win over St. Benedict, a team they beat in the finals of the Ryan Invitational Sept. 19.

Behind tournament MVP, senior Megan Pulido, who had 32 assists, St. Benedict won in three very tough games, with virtually every point hotly contested. The Irish countered with front row standouts Kristen Sharp and Shannon Carr for blocking and spikes.

“I don’t think I’ve ever coached a team that came as far from opening day of practice to the final game as much as this one did,’’ Cockerham said. “We had five really good seniors who led the way. This group got along so well.’’

Ryan had a final chance to extend the match when the Irish led nearly all of the third game and, at 24-22, had two game points. But the Eagles caught up on a block, then a spike and captured the last four points to clinch the match.

“It’s very tough to lose when you get this far. I’ve enjoyed coaching this group about as much as any team I’ve ever had,’’ said Cockerham, the 25-year Irish coach.