By Gary R. Rasberry
NEW BREMEN -- It may have been a long day at the Division IV volleyball sectional at New Bremen, but it certainly was not a dull day.
In the nearly eight hours of action at Cardinal Gymnasium, all four matches went at least four games with plenty of back and forth action.
In the end, St. Henry and Marion Local made it out of the gym with the chance to play each other on Tuesday at 7 p.m.
The Redskins, the top seed of the tournament, defeated Fort Recovery in a classic five-game battle with the tiebreaker going to the Redskins, 15-10.
Marion pulled off the mild upset by downing Minster in four games to take the other sectional bracket title over the Wildcats in the nightcap. The Flyers had to work overtime on Saturday as the sectional semifinal match with New Bremen needed four games before the Flyers could scurry away in the last game by a 25-18 margin.
In the other game of the day, Fort Recovery needed five games before sending New Knoxville home for the season.
One coach called the tournament "the mini-state" since five of the six teams at the sectional were ranked in the top 20 in the state coaches poll at the end of the season. The competition proved the statement to be true.
St. Henry defeats Fort Recovery
18-25, 25-22, 25-23, 22-25, 15-10
The momentum in the first sectional final swung many times on the day. It looked like the Redskins were going to make it a four-game day after taking an 18-16 lead in the fourth game. Fort Recovery responded and took the lead at 20-19 and did not give it up as the Redskins tried to close the gap.
The Redskins had to deal with a potent hitting attack led by sophomore Tiff Gaerke. The hitter recorded 15 kills in the first three games of the St. Henry match and added two more to go with several key blocks in game four to force a game five.
The teams answered each other for the first three points of the game but St. Henry began to take control with Christa Schwartz serving at 3-all. Three straight Fort Recovery hitting errors put the Redskins up 6-3, but the Indians came back to cut it to 6-5. Kayla Lefeld came up to serve for St. Henry and used her wicked jump serve to push the lead to 9-5.
Fort Recovery got as close as 9-7 the rest of the way as the Redskins pushed the lead up gradually, getting big blocks from Lindsay Puthoff and kills from Lindsey Thobe before Puthoff scored the final kill to put the Redskins in the district semis.
If there was a word to describe Redskin coach Lori Schwieterman after the game, relieved would be close enough.
"We just survived," said Schwieterman of the Redskins (20-3). "We had 10 days off since our last game and we had a lot of rust to shake off. I don't know if we shook it all off, but we survived. Give Fort Recovery credit, they played well."
Fort Recovery went up early in the first game and had leads late in the next three games as St. Henry rarely had a comfortable lead.
"I don't think we ever captured the momentum, but we never gave it away," said Schwieterman. "I think it was a big swing here and there and I told them to keep fighting."
Fort Recovery coach Jackie Briscoe was sad with the results but happy with her team's effort.
"They showed up. They really wanted it," said Briscoe. "We had some opportunities but just couldn't finish the game. They're so upset at themselves. They practiced so hard and set high goals this season. They really wanted it."
Marion defeats Minster
25-13, 25-21, 22-25, 25-22
It appeared the nightcap would buck the trend and go the minimum after the Flyers picked up the first two games with big runs. The Wildcats took their turn in the third game to stave off the packing of the equipment for the rest of the season.
Minster began to pick things up in the third game as Samantha Schumann picked up three big kills as the Wildcats jumped out to a 17-9 lead before Marion came back with a 10-2 run to tie the game at 19-all then take the lead at 20-19 with a kill from Kelsey Schaefer.
Minster came back to tie it up at 21 and 22-all before taking the lead for good on kills by Jody Westerheide and Danae Spieles.
In game four, the Flyers took the early lead at 7-5 before Minster came back to tie things up at 8-all. The teams stayed close up until 11-all when the Flyers took control on the serving of Schaefer. The senior started her run with an ace and tallied six straight points, getting three more aces on the run to go up 18-11 before Minster got a point and the serve.
Minster tried to edge closer and got to within two points at 20-18 before Jenna Barhorst, who came up on Thursday after injuring her ankle, got a kill to get the serve for herself and followed up with two aces to make it 23-18. Minster again tried to get close and made it 24-22 before Schaefer came up with the big kill to end the match and put the Flyers in the district semis.
"It was a very long day. It's tough," said Marion coach Amy Kucharski. "All the matches went at least four games, that shows how good the competition is at this sectional. I told the girls if you can win two games against the teams we faced, that's saying something.
"We've been up two games to zero before and lost. Minster is an excellent team. They give us everything we want. It's hard to put the ball away on them," added Kucharski.
"They took it to us the first couple of games," said Minster coach Rick Carter. "In game three, I think we came back and played like we could play. Game four we were in it awhile and we got a couple of bad breaks."
Fort Recovery def. New Knoxville
18-25, 25-16, 11-25, 25-16, 15-9
The first match of the day set the tone as the Rangers, who at 11-11 was the only team at the sectional that was not state-ranked, gave the Indians everything they could handle, including holding the team to just 11 points in the third game to go up 2-1 in the match.
The matchup between the Indians' Gaerke and the Rangers' Nicole Wright lived up to the billing as Gaerke had 18 kills in the match and Wright finished with 13 kills.
In the rubber game, though, it was the blocking of Krystal Rammel that put the Indians over the top. Rammel had four scoring blocks in the game. That and several Ranger miscues allowed the Indians to get a comfortable lead and end the Rangers' season at 11-12.
Marion def. New Bremen
25-19, 20-25, 28-26, 25-15
The third game of the match proved to be the pivotal one as the Cardinals got out to a 11-7 lead in the game thanks to big hitting games from Carla Evers and Kelly Steineman. Steineman had three big kills in the game and Evers added several more kills to keep the Cardinals ahead.
The Flyers fought their way back, tying the game at 17-all and pulling out to a small 21-19 lead before New Bremen cut the game and tied things up at 23 and 24 to force extra points.
The Cardinals scored first to go up 25-24 but Stephanie Brunswick came up with a big block on what could have been the game-winner to tie things up at 25. Liz Schnelle got the point back with a kill by Brunswick hit a big dig that went over for a score to tie things up at 26. Maria Moeller followed up with game point for Marion with a kill. The Cardinals tried to strike back but Schaefer came up with a huge block to get the third game.
The Flyers led from wire-to-wire in game four, getting as much as a seven-point lead before ending the match with that margin of victory.