TROY — Shelby County Athletic League volleyball teams have long been among the best in Ohio, but teams from the league have taken the success even further this year.
Four SCAL teams captured district titles last Saturday, including all three Div. IV southwest district championships. Three SCAL teams earned district titles last year, which has happened six times in the last eight years.
But four teams winning district titles has been nearly impossible. Anna is the only Division III league school, and only three championships are awarded in Division IV. And with the success Lehman Catholic has enjoyed in the last couple of decades under coach Greg Snipes, two Div. IV district titles is the most league teams could produce.
“I don’t remember what Snipes’ number was, but I think he was over 20 in a row at one point,” Fort Loramie coach Jeremy Rodgers said after a 3-0 win over Miami Valley Christian Academy at Troy. “It says a lot for how good this area is.”
Aside from Loramie, Russia and Jackson Center also captured district titles in Div. IV, while Anna earned a title in Div. III. It’s the 10th consecutive title for Fort Loramie and the 11th for Jackson Center, which has won the D-IV state championship the last two seasons.
Not only did four SCAL teams win, but all four won by 3-0 scores.
“We’ve got a lot of great players and good coaching (in the league), and with a lot of good volleyball in the area, we always have good teams to play in nonconference, which makes us better,” Rodgers said.
Fort Loramie beat Miami Valley Christian Academy 25-5 in the first game and jumped out to an 11-1 lead in the second game. The Lions went on a late run in the third game to keep close, but Loramie closed out a 25-19 win.
Rodgers was pleased with the performance and pleased that a relatively young group captured a district title. The Redskins had only five players back from last season and lost four players that earned all-league honors.
“We started the season with a real clean slate of players,” Rodgers said. “This was a big moment for them, so I was real happy they were able to settle down and finish it.
“… One of my goals was building a program that was going to be able to maintain, and not just a one-shot deal. These seniors, when we first started this streak, were in second grade. They’ve seen it. The expectations are there, and they lived up to them.”
Some of the state’s best stand in the way of the four league teams as they start regional play on Thursday. Anna will face defending Div. III state champion Miami East on Thursday at Trent Arena in Kettering. The Vikings (23-3) were ranked fifth in D-III in the final state coaches association poll.
And while three of the four teams in the Div. IV southwest regional are SCAL teams, the fourth was the top-ranked team in the state in the final poll: New Bremen.
The Cardinals, which are led by Michigan-bound middle hitter Paige Jones, lost to Jackson Center in a regional final last year. The two teams will face off in a regional semifinal at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday at Northmont’s Thunderdome, while Fort Loramie will face Russia at 6.
“I think it’s going to take some consistency (to win),” Rodgers said. “It’s the team that’s going to be able to calm down and play under the pressure. We all have different kinds of pressure on us. New Bremen’s got pressure, they’re No. 1 and supposed to win. Jackson Center’s got pressure as defending champs. Us and Russia, it’s a rubber match. It’s who’s going to be able to handle that moment and intensity.”
Fort Loramie beat Russia 3-0 on Sept. 14 but lost 3-1 on the road on Oct. 10.
“They’re a solid team,” Rodgers said of Russia. “They’ve got girls that have been there before, not to the regionals, but been there as in experienced. We’re sort of the opposite end of the spectrum on that. That’s what makes it fun. …I think it’s going to come down to serving and handling the pressure in all facets of the game.”
Contact Bryant Billing at (937) 538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter.