By Robb Hemmelgarn
ST. HENRY -- When the Fort Recovery Indians began this season with more head coaches than league victories at one point, the prospects for a successful campaign didn't look very promising.
Tuesday in St. Henry, the Indians tangled with Lori Schwieterman's Redskins, and when the smoke cleared Fort Recovery defeated the home team for the first time in the regular season since the seniors on the roster were in diapers. After dropping games one and three by finals of 25-18 and 25-19, the Indians countered with victories in games two and four -- 25-16 and 25-14. In the rubber match, the Indians blasted their way to a 15-11 win, handing the Redskins their first three-loss MAC season in nearly two decades.
"We wanted to come in tonight and stand our ground and play like we have been," remarked Indian head coach Diana Rammel. "St. Henry is a tremendous team and you cannot underestimate them. Our team has been through so much this season with the coaching situation and winning here tonight is a huge confidence-builder that can hopefully carry us through the rest of the season and into tournament."
Both teams traded punches in the first half of game one, but Sarah Osterholt knocked over six straight service points to give St. Henry a 21-13 lead and soon rolled to the 25-18 win.
Although Fort Recovery standout Tiff Gaerke was slowed in the first game, she began to blossom in game two. Several powerful kills from the senior deflected off the St. Henry defense, and the Indians never trailed in the 25-16 victory. "In the second game we didn't pass well and we didn't play defense or have a block up," commented Schwieterman. "If we don't do those things and let their big hitters tee off, it's going to be a long night."
The Indians led the majority of the early going in the third contest, but never by more than four points. A sideout cut St. Henry's deficit to three points at 15-12, and senior Rachel Schmackers soon took advantage. Her service rotation aided the Redskins in scoring 12 of the game's next 13 points, and they eventually rolled to the 25-19 win.
Game four was decided by primarily two service rotations and the continued floor-denting slams by Gaerke and the rest of the Indians' front row. Fort Recovery grabbed the early command 6-1 with Vicki Roessner doing the serving. The Redskins rallied however and got as close as two points midway through the game, but that's as close as it would get. With a 15-12 advantage in tow, senior Rachel Stahl put the contest out of reach with five straight points and forced a final game with the 25-14 win.
"We knew before the season started that Fort Recovery was going to be one of the top teams in the league and I believe they definitely are," remarked Schwieterman. "We wanted to limit Gaerke's touches, and be aggressive both on offense and defense. At times, we were really on tonight and I felt we could have beat anyone, but then the switch goes off and we lose all consistency. We need to figure out why that happens to us so late in the season."
Game five was knotted up on five separate occasions at the onset, but Kinsey Wenning was able to find a hole in the St. Henry back row to give her team a 7-6 lead which they never relinquished. The Redskins could get no closer than three points in the end and eventually succumbed by the 15-11 final.
"Going into game five, you hope if emotion takes over, it's a good kind of emotion," Rammel pointed out. "I told the girls before the final game that it was a matter of who wanted it the most. We played very emotional, but it worked in our favor, and we were able to win against a very good team and program."
The Redskins (11-9, 5-3 MAC) are back in action at home for senior night on Thursday when the Minster Wildcats come to town, while Fort Recovery (14-6, 5-2 MAC) will take on the New Bremen Cardinals in MAC action Thursday.