Friday, October 27th, 2017
Cavs of 1994 first to go to state
By Robb Hemmelgarn
As the Coldwater volleyball team continues to steamroll through their Division III postseason slate, memories of their run in the autumn of 1994 quickly come to mind for plenty of their diehard fans.
Although an appearance in the state tournament this season for the top-ranked Cavaliers is highly likely, it wasn't quite as likely this time of year 23 years ago.
Head coach Jeff Swartzel's girls' entered the postseason with a 15-5 overall record and a 5-3 mark in the Midwest Athletic Conference, which was good for a third-place tie with Fort Recovery and New Knoxville. As is historically the case, the Cavaliers embarked on the Division III tournament battle tested from a brutal MAC schedule blended with the convenience of not having to face any of their local rivals along the way.
"We had a good team that season, but I'm not sure we were predicted to go far in tournament," recalled Cathy (Dues) Corbitt, a senior hitter. "The MAC schedule is always tough, but in Division III it was always difficult to gauge how good you really were based off of that until you started seeing new teams in the postseason."
The sectional tournament tipped off at Wayne Trace, where the Orange and Black took on the Spencerville Bearcats on a Saturday afternoon. Although they missed ten serves in set one against the Bearcats, Coldwater rolled to an easy 15-2 victory in the best-of-three setup. The Bearcats jumped in front 2-0 in set two, but strong serving from Karen Meyer and kills by Kelly Evers and Jenny Leugers gave the Cavaliers a command they never relinquished as they rolled to the 15-4 triumph. Coldwater went on to take the nightcap and sectional championship in two games over Montpelier, rolling to 17-5 on the season. Renae Weigel served up 14 points combined in the two victories.
"She made the difference all day long because we were kind of stagnant each game we played today," Swartzel explained to The Daily Standard following the contests. "Then she (Weigel) came in and started serving and ran off three or four aces in a row. We even got some points off of her serves because they couldn't pass well. Renae did a super job serving."
Up next was the district tournament at Bath, where the Cavaliers opened with a 15-10, 15-2 edge over Otsego before dismantling Riverdale in the championship game 15-3, 15-8. Riverdale entered the district championship 16-7 overall, but Coldwater lit it up from the start, jumping ahead 7-0 in set one thanks to another dose of precision serving from Weigel, including a pair of aces. The Falcons kept things tight at the onset of set two, but a pair of kills and a block from Corbitt applied the final touches on her team's second straight district crown.
"It was great to get off to that fast start," Swartzel said to the newspaper postgame. "It just gives you so much confidence. You could see the confidence building throughout the first game. It's a game of changing momentum and you have to have that confidence. They had that tonight, and you see what they did."
Regional play unfolded in Bowling Green High School, where the Cavs faced the Tinora Rams in the semifinal. After taking game one, 15-10, Coldwater fell for the first time in the postseason with a 15-7 setback in game two, before edging by 15-13 to advance to that evening's regional final against New London.
Swartzel's crew took the opening game 15-4 before the Wildcats came back to take the second 15-8. The two teams played close in the third game before a monster kill from Leugers ended the game 15-13 and vaulted the Cavaliers to the state tournament for the first time in school history.
"I tell the girls I coach now (as the freshman volleyball coach at Jonathan Alder High School in Plain City) that it is really hard to describe the feeling of winning regionals and advancing to the state tournament," Corbitt said. "Even as a former player, I don't think it is something I truly started to appreciate until I started coaching and got a better understanding of how difficult and special that accomplishment really is."
The Cavaliers arrived at the Erivn J. Nutter Center as they looked to upend the Fairview Park Warriors in the Division III state semifinal. The Warriors were making their seventh appearance in the final four and had beencrowned as state champions two years prior. The dream season for the Cavalier faithful didn't end as magical as the journey itself, as they were outmatched in the contest 15-2 in the opening set and 15-1 in the second to end Coldwater's season at 21-6.
"It was really bittersweet following that last game," Corbitt recalled. "Knowing it was my last high school game with a group of girls with whom I loved playing was hard, but to end things at the state tournament was very special. Although we weren't very competitive in the game, it doesn't take away from the aspect of getting that far and it was an extremely memorable season for all of us."