TROY — Volleyball district titles have become commonplace in Jackson Center, thanks in part to the leadership of longtime coach Kim Metz, who has established the program as one of Ohio’s best regardless of division.
The Tigers earned their 12th consecutive Division IV district title on Saturday in Troy with a 25-6, 25-8, 25-7 win over Miami Valley Christian Academy, which puts them in a regional semifinal next Thursday against Russia.
Though it has become a common occurrence, Saturday’s victory holds special meaning for Metz and Jackson Center’s players.
Metz is undergoing treatment for breast cancer and has remained on the sidelines this season to guide the Tigers (23-3). Though she has lost her hair since the start of the season, she hasn’t lost her ability to fire up and coach the squad according to senior outside hitter/setter Caroline Frieders.
“I love Kim Metz, and for us to be able to do this for her when she’s at her lowest point is a great thing,” Frieders said.
Metz is the president of the Ohio High School Volleyball Coaches Association and is well-known throughout the state. Many of Jackson Center’s opponents have honored Metz before matches this year, and Miami Valley Christian Academy did on Saturday.
When the Lions’ players were announced before the game, each ran up to Metz and presented her with a red carnation.
“People have made me cry so many times this year,” Metz said. “It’s like ‘Are you guys getting in my head? You’ve got to stop.’ But it’s great.
“I’ve thought so many things. I thought I was one of those mean people that stand on the sidelines that no one wants to talk to, but the generosity and the kindness that we’re receiving is just unimaginable.”
There wasn’t any need for Metz to get mean on the sidelines on Saturday. The Tigers jumped out to a 12-4 lead in the first game en route to a big win and similarly jumped out to early leads in the last two games as they overpowered the Lions.
It’s the fourth consecutive dominating 3-0 tournament win for Jackson Center, and Metz credited the players.
“I think at this given point it does have to be business-like,” Metz said. “It’s one of those things where you expect to be here, so you have to make sure you are playing the part that you own and earned to be here.
“There’s an awful lot we have to be thankful for and an awful lot of humbleness these kids bring. I appreciate everything they have. They’re just such great kids and have such great integrity. There’s a lot of goodness coming out of these kids this year.”
The Tigers will likely need to bring added intensity against Russia on Thursday at Northmont’s Thunderdome. The two squads split a pair of Shelby County Athletic League matches in regular season, with both going five sets.
“We don’t raise the level of — I’ll say irritation — in practice because you still have to be relaxed and enjoy where you’re at, but you do need to be prepared,” Metz said. “Staying relaxed on the court and doing the things you need to do is the big picture.
“Everybody has to understand — it’s easy to be an armchair quarterback, but we’re still dealing with 16-, 17-year-old girls. One second, life’s great. Five seconds later, there’s some tragedy that’s just happened. It’s all in the balance of life in what you do and how you help get them through one hurdle and get to another.”
Jackson Center won its first matchup against the Raiders on Aug. 23 in Russia but lost the second matchup on Sept. 18. The Tigers won the first two sets of the second matchup, but Russia rallied to win the last three sets, including a 15-12 victory in the fifth.
“We’ve just got to keep our heads on straight,” Frieders said. “Last time, we just let them come back a little bit before we pushed again. We just need to push the whole game. Be prepared for the worst but expect the best from ourselves.”