SALEM -- Central played with all of its heart and didn't let anything faze them on Saturday at the Salem Civic Center.

The Falcons came up short 3-0 (25-16, 25-20, 25-14) to Glenvar in the Class 2 state volleyball finals, but Central coach Ashlie Clar said she was happy with her how her team played.

"I'm super proud of the way my girls played today," Clar said. "We came out strong and aggressive. Glenvar is a very good team. They set their team up and they hit the ball down. We had a hard time getting their block there. I can't ask anything more from these girls. They played hard. They played with all of their heart and that's all I could ask for as a coach."

The Falcons (24-5) had a hard time adjusting to Glenvar's style of play, including quick sets and kills that at times landed straight down as opposed to deep hits.

"They just had a lot of different sets than we see in our region, honestly," Central senior Ella Toothman said. "They're quicker and just different placement. So it was harder to block and get used to. But I think we did adjust well. The first and second set was a little bit rough."

Glenvar senior Bailey Conner had 10 of her team-high 20 kills in the opening set.

Kills by Toothman and Central sophomore Peyton DiNardo evened the opening set at 2-2, but the Highlanders used a 12-3 run to pull ahead for good.

Central rallied later in the set with a service ace by senior Erika Hutton and a kill from sophomore Bailey Sheetz to cut the deficit to 15-13.

Conner took over from there. She pounded out seven kills over the final stretch to help the Highlanders (23-3) take the first set 25-16.

"She was super tough," Clar said. "I knew she was going to be a tough player. She's one that can hit any spot on the court with any set. So it was hard to dig her up because you usually have a player that likes to hit to a certain spot on the court, and she could hit anywhere. And then when she rolled the ball it was so hard for us to get there, because we were expecting her to slam it down."

The Falcons grabbed the momentum in the second set and led most of the way.

Central was able to build a 13-10 lead, aided by three kills from Toothman.

"We were battling," Clar said. "We were very aggressive in that second set, and that's what I preach to the girls every single day is if we're aggressive and we're putting these teams back on their heels then that's when we win. Unfortunately, it wasn't enough to get that set. But they just worked so hard. It was nothing to be upset about."

The two teams went back and forth until it was 20-20. A kill each by Glenvar juniors Cara Butler, Claire Griffith and Conner gave the Highlanders a 23-20 edge.

Glenvar finished it off with back-to-back aces by junior Sydney Loder.

"We just couldn't give up," Conner said. "We all trust each other, and we just went point-for-point. And we just had to make sure we kept our heads up and our energy up, and just kept doing simple plays. And not making mistakes and not doing too much with our plays. And really trust each other."

The third set was all Glenvar. The Highlanders took control with an 11-2 run to build a 13-4 advantage.

Two kills by Central senior Emily Funkhouser, an ace by senior Viliane Luyando Disdier and a kill by Toothman helped the Falcons cut the lead to 18-11. However, the Highlanders responded with a 7-3 run to finish off the match.

"It's a lot to wrap my head around, especially for me because this is my senior year," Conner said of winning the state title. "And being the only senior, they really made me feel important. And they were always there for me. And I never had a doubt in my mind that they were going to have my back, and it was just so much fun."

Clar said she was proud of the way her team performed.

"We didn't come out timid or scared," she said. "We came out swinging. We adjusted to the environment very well. We just fell short unfortunately. But there's no regrets, I don't think, on that court. We were diving all over the place. We had great up's. We had great sets, great kills. Nothing more we could ask for."

Central's six seniors — Toothman, Keeyarra Dodson-Perez, Funkhouser, Hutton, Luyando Disdier and Bailey Spiggle — helped the program grow a lot over the last four years. Toothman said the group is tight-knit and she's enjoyed playing with them.

"We've all became super close," Toothman said. "And I think it's rare in high school sports for everyone to be so involved and so 110 percent into the sport we're playing and into the season we're playing. So I think we're all lucky to have the girls around us to do well and want to push ourselves to be better."

Clar coached the seniors at the junior varsity level, where they won a Bull Run District title as freshmen, before taking over as varsity coach their sophomore season.

"That group is very special to me," Clar said. "They came from nothing. Central volleyball was nothing four years ago. And they came in the gym every single day when they didn't have to just to get better. And they wanted to turn the program around. And that means so much to a coach. You don't typically get 16 girls on one team that all want the best for the team. They're selfless, hard-working individuals. And I think that will do them well once they graduate high school."

Griffith had 14 kills and Loder had five service aces for the Highlanders. Audrey Conner had 22 assists and Cara Butler had 18 assists for Glenvar. Hannah Hylton added 14 digs for the Highlanders.

Central was led by Toothman with eight kills and DiNardo with seven kills and 11 digs. Funkhouser had five kills and Hutton had 14 assists and six digs. Luyando Disdier had 15 digs and Spiggle had 13 digs for Central. Sheetz had six assists and Dodson-Perez had four blocks for the Falcons.

Clar said it was an amazing season for her team, which won its first regional title since 1997 and set a school record with 24 wins.

"I told the girls before the game today, there's only two teams in double-A volleyball that get to play in this gym and you guys are one of them," Clar said. "And no matter what the outcome you should be proud of yourselves. And I'm so incredibly proud of this group for all the work that they've put in the last four years or so at Central High School. And they made history this year -- they really did."

Contact Tommy Keeler Jr. at