Tuesday, August 27th, 2013
By Robb Hemmelgarn
St. Henry celebrating 40 years of volleyball
When St. Henry volleyball alum Diana Kramer glances toward the southwest corner of the St. Henry Middle School gymnasium, the red and white trimmed championship banners seem to scream down at her just as they have done since she was in the seventh grade.
"The gym is decorated with state banners that constantly remind me of what every girl that has played or will ever play volleyball here dreams about," said Kramer, who is also St. Henry's current volleyball coach. "They remind me of how great our volleyball family really is and it makes me want to be the best coach I possibly can be every day to help create more memories for my current and future players."
On Saturday, Kramer and a host of fellow St. Henry volleyball alumni will join this year's squad in commemorating 40 years of those volleyball memories, championship trophies, Hall of Fame coaches and much more at the middle school gym. Beginning at 10 a.m. the Redskins will make their 2013 homecourt debut when they tangle throughout the day in matches against the Findlay Trojans, Fairmont Skyhawks, and Buckeye Central Bucks.
The four volleyball powers posted a combined record of 89-17 last season, giving Kramer and her girls a lofty obstacle to fire up the new campaign. Around noon, there will be a brief intermission as all former and current Redskin volleyball players and coaches will be recognized, along with all state semifinalist, runners-up and state championship teams from the past.
Throughout the afternoon, a photo and publication display will be set up in the commons area, honoring the program that began in the fall of 1974.
"It is going to be an outstanding day of volleyball," said Kramer, who has been head coach since 2010. "Every team will play at an extremely high level which will help to prepare us for what lies ahead as we get into our Midwest Athletic Conference schedule. Playing great teams will only make us better no matter what the outcome. We just have to work on getting better every day we are in the gym."
Although it took the St. Henry volleyball program a couple of seasons to master the game before capturing their first MAC title in the fall of 1976, from there it went 100-miles-an-hour, as head coach DeDe Dudgeon, later Stoner, finished her 20-year career with 16 MAC crowns, seven state tournament appearances, five state titles and an overall record of 440-61.
When Stoner's former player, Lori Schwieterman, grabbed the reigns in 1996 she kept things rolling by guiding the Redskins to 10 more consecutive league championships. By the time she walked away as head coach of the Redskins in 2009, Schwieterman had stockpiled 291 victories and added another state championship in 2004.
In 2010, it was Kramer's turn to become Redskins' head coach and in her second season, St. Henry won the program's seventh state title.
"DeDe and Lori are Hall of Fame coaches, and St. Henry volleyball would not be what it is today without them," said Kramer. "I knew I had huge shoes to fill, and I will continue to work on filling them. The support I receive from my coaching staff, former and future players, the school system and community is what makes St. Henry volleyball so special."
Through the years, St. Henry has established itself as the crown jewel of small school volleyball in Ohio by massing over 800 wins and an almost 85 percent winning percentage - that's an average of more than 20 wins per season over an astonishing four decades.
"It is truly unbelievable," said Kramer. "Accomplishing all of that is very difficult and noteworthy, and to average just over 20 wins per season over the past 40 years is completely remarkable."
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