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Thursday, November 1st, 2007

Versailles clears a huge hurdle

By Randy Bruns

Anna's Laura Gehret, 9, looks demoralized as the Versailles volleyball team begi. . .

WILMINGTON - The Versailles Tigers had a score to settle in Wednesday night's volleyball regional semifinal against the Anna Rockets.
After seeing their season end here the last two years at the hands of the Rockets, the Tigers decided that enough was enough and advanced past the defending state champions with a three-game victory, 25-18, 25-20, and 25-22.
Versailles, now 24-2 on the year, will take on Roger Bacon (18-8) Saturday at 4 p.m. for a chance to advance to state for the first time since 2003. Anna bows out of the tournament with a 23-4 record.
The Tigers won in all sorts of ways on this night; by holding onto a big lead, by staying tough after squandering a big lead, and finally by coming back after being down late.
In the end, it came down to Versailles having too many weapons for Anna to defend. The Rockets boasted perhaps the best player on the floor in Ohio State-bound Kelli Barhorst, but the Tigers are stocked with a bevy of big hitters all across the net, and their versatility won the day.
"We knew coming in that we had a size advantage with five of our players six-foot or taller," said Versailles coach Jeremy Riley. "We keyed on their two middles, because we knew their whole offense revolved around them. We wanted to put a good double block against them and force their outside hitters to beat us."
The Tigers took advantage of Barhorst being in the back row early in the first game, as they went on a 9-3 run to take a 12-6 advantage. The Rockets would never get closer than that, as five different Tigers banged kills the rest of the way en route to the win.
The momentum from the opener carried over to the second game, as Shelby Shimp got hot from behind the service line to give the Tigers a huge lead. The junior smacked four aces in an eight-point run to put her team up 10-3, as the Rockets looked befuddled on serve receive. They didn't quit, though, and rallied to tie the game at 20-apiece, but the Tigers put the hammer down from there.
Justine Raterman notched a kill after a marathon rally to untie the game, and after a Rocket hitting error, Megan Campbell won two consecutive battles at the net to give the Tigers game point. Raterman finished it without mercy, as she drilled a laser to the floor to give her team a 2-0 game lead.
The Rockets served notice in the third game that they wouldn't go down easily, as they vaulted out to an 18-13 advantage. The Tigers were up to the challenge, though, as they whittled the deficit little by little until Emily Bohman tied things at 20-all on a kill. Not satisfied with the tie, Bohman continued swinging and smashed two more kills to swing the momentum in the Tigers' favor. Raterman later put an end to the night with another kill that set off a celebration on the Tigers' bench.
The Rockets were on their heels most of the night thanks to an aggressive serving scheme by the Tigers, who notched seven aces in all.
"We wanted to turn the tables because we knew Anna was going to serve aggressively," said Riley. "The last three weeks we've been working on our passing, and to practice it we've been serving very tough. We thought that their passing game was weaker than their hitting, and we took advantage of that by getting them out of system."
Anna coach Karen Zumberger conceded that her squad was beaten by a better team on this night.
"They have hitters all over the place," said Zumberger. "Once you got one out of the front row, there came another one. We knew that we would have to take them off their game in order to win, but they brought the absolute best game I've seen them play. Good for them, and hopefully they keep playing like that and go all the way."
With the Anna monkey off their back, Riley knows that his charges can't rest on their laurels if they want to keep advancing.
"We have to make sure we didn't expend too much emotion on Anna, because this has been a huge rivalry the last three years," said Riley. "We'll definitely be ready."
Ticket information - Tickets for Saturday's match with Roger Bacon at Wilmington will be on sale until 4 p.m. Friday at Versailles High School. There will be no Saturday sales.
Tickets are $6 presale and $8 at the door. Versailles receives 12 1/2 percent of presale and nothing for tickets sold at the door.
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