Thursday, October 15th, 2009
Minster started the MAC run to state
By Robb Hemmelgarn
Let your mind wander back in time for a minute to girls' sports at Minster High School in the mid-1970s.
More than likely, your initial and obvious go-to recollection will revolve around the track and field program.
Although Katie Horstman's runners won several state titles, the veteran coach also etched a name for herself as one of the pioneer volleyball coaches in the Midwest Athletic Conference. From 1974-1976, the Wildcats garnered the first three conference volleyball crowns, and in 1977 they made a mad dash to grab their fourth in a row.
"She was definitely our secret weapon," commented Julie (Monnin) Niekamp in regards to her former volleyball coach. "Ms. Horstman played sports in college and brought to Minster with her a vast knowledge that helped us play at a different level than most teams in the area."
The Wildcats dominated the start of the 1977 campaign, Horstman's fifth as head coach, by winning their first 10 matches, all in just two games. In the 11th match, the Coldwater Cavaliers took the Wildcats to three games, but Minster still prevailed and quickly won their next two matches to move to 13-0. In their final two engagements of the regular season, the Orange and Black ran into a wasp's nest, as Celina bettered them in three games and St. Henry knocked them out in two, including 15-0 in the opener.
"I remember that last game of the season at St. Henry," recalled Lisa (Oldiges) Griner. "They had a small gym with a beam that ran across the ceiling over the middle of the court. In that first game, there were many times we hit the beam on serves and we just couldn't get anything going. Losing twice at the end of the season was tough, but I think it made us realize that we were beatable and it helped us to focus on the tournament which we knew was do-or-die."
Although two straight defeats wasn't the ideal way to head into the postseason, Minster dusted itself off and opened sectional play with easy wins over Mendon-Union and Parkway. With victories over Riverdale and Hardin Northern in district action, the Wildcats improved to 17-2 overall.
Minster bulled into regional competition and battled both New Riegel and Stryker to three-game matches before securing the victories and vaulting itself into the state tournament.
For the first time in league history, a Midwest Athletic Conference team appeared in the Class A state tournament, which unfolded at the Rike Center on the campus of Otterbein College in Columbus. In the first match, the Wildcats tangled with the Yellow Springs Bulldogs. In the opening game of the match, Sandy Bergman's seven kills helped pace the Wildcats to a 15-10 win, while in game two, Lisa Oldiges added five kills to lead Minster to a 15-8 triumph.
The season's final destination was the state championship game against Milford Center Fairbanks, the state runner-up from the year before. Despite holding an advantage on two separate occasions, the Wildcats couldn't overcome their 31 errors and fell in the first game, 12-15. Horstman's girls roared back in game two though, as Kathy Poeppelman tallied the final six points to give her team a 15-4 victory. In the third and decisive game, Minster jumped in front 5-1, but seven straight points from Fairbanks provided a lead that was never relinquished.
"Back then, girls' sports in general didn't carry near the same emphasis that they do now," commented Niekamp. "We were a good team and had great coaching, but I think the most important thing in going to state that year was our chemistry. We all got along so well on and off the court and that made it much easier playing the games."
With the loss, the Wildcats' dream season concluded with a 20-3 overall record, which still remains one of the best in school history.
"What we accomplished that year was something special doing what we just loved to do," remarked Griner. "We had a great blend of players, coaching, and experience, and we just all worked so well together and it ended as a very enjoyable season. We never had junior high sports, so once we got to high school we were all ready to play and learn the game. Coach Horstman did a great job coaching us and even though we worked hard, we still had a lot of fun."