FAIRBORN — New Bremen’s volleyball players have become experts at coming back from early deficits. They put that expertise to use in a Division IV state semifinal against Monroeville on Thursday at Wright State’s Nutter Center.
The Cardinals rallied from an early 2-0 deficit and won the last three games 25-19, 25-20, 15-10 to advance to the Div. IV state final on Saturday against Tiffin Calvert, which beat Portsmouth Clay 3-0 in Thursday’s first semifinal.
“We’ve been told that we can’t do this and that we’re not good enough, and my message to this team all season is to believe in yourself,” New Bremen coach Diana Kramer said. “This is a life lesson for them. When things get tough, you have to keep trucking on. They did, and I’m really, really stinkin’ proud right now.”
The Cardinals, which were ranked third in D-IV in the final state coaches association poll, trailed early in a couple of Midwest Athletic Conference matches in regular season and trailed 2-0 in a district final against MAC rival St. Henry before winning the last three sets to advance.
“I think the win feels better when you win in five because you have to work so hard to come back,” New Bremen senior libero Blake Snider said. “Better than three sets. But three sets definitely keeps our parents less stressed.”
New Bremen also trailed 17-4 in the first set of a semifinal last year before rallying on their way to winning the school’s first state championship.
“We knew that if we remained calm today and that if we started playing our volleyball, we could maybe win this next set. Then it’s about winning the next set. Then it’s about winning the set after that,” Kramer said. “I couldn’t be prouder of (our seniors). They’ve been with me these last three years, and they’re the heart and soul of this team. They kept the underclassmen calm, cool and collected.”
Monroeville scored the first four points in the first set, which caused Kramer to call a timeout. The Eagles scored three more before the Cardinals scored and then took a 10-1 lead on an ace by Stacia Stieber, which forced Kramer to call the team’s second timeout.
New Bremen (24-4) pulled within 13-6 on a serve into the net by Monroeville. The Cardinals later went on a 7-1 run and pulled within 19-15 after a kill by Rachel Kremer.
New Bremen pulled within 22-19 on a kill by Claire Pape, but a serve error and an attack error put the Eagles ahead by five, then Kelsie Palmer had a kill to finish off the set at 25-19.
Monroeville (24-4) took an 8-2 lead in the second game, and the teams traded points to a 14-7 score. The Cardinals then went on a 7-1 run to pull within one point, and a kill by Kremer on a hard spike tied it 15-15. Kremer followed with another kill to put New Bremen ahead and Taylor Paul followed with an ace to increase the lead to 17-15.
The Eagles tied it 18-18, and the two squads then traded points to a 23-23 tie. A handling error by Abbi Thieman put Monroeville ahead, then Adrian Barman sent a hard spike to the back left corner to end it at 25-23.
“I told our girls going into that third set that they play best of five for a reason,” Kramer said. “Is it in your favor when you’re down 0-2? Probably not. But we just break it into smaller pieces. Let’s try to win this point, let’s try to win this set, let’s build it from here.”
The Eagles took a 7-4 lead in the third set, but New Bremen scored three consecutive points to tie it. After an 8-8 tie, New Bremen scored five in a row, with the last coming on a kill from Paul on an assist from Thieman.
New Bremen built a 20-11 lead, but Monroeville scored five straight to cut the lead to four. The Eagles then sent a ball into the net, Kremer had an ace and Josie Reinhart had a kill to increase the lead to 23-16. The Eagles scored three straight to cut the lead to four, but Reinhart followed with a kill. Monroeville’s Maura Brown then sent a spike out-of-bounds to end the set.
An ace by Madison Pape gave New Bremen an 8-3 lead in the fourth game, but Monroeville scored six of the next nine to pull within 11-9. The Cardinals scored the next three and later built a 17-11 lead.
After the teams traded points to a 19-13 score, Monroeville scored three in a row to pull within three points, which caused Kramer to call a timeout.
Claire Pape had a kill to put New Bremen up 22-18, then an attack error by Monroeville increased the lead to four points. After the Eagles scored two, Puthoff had a kill on a hard spike. An attack error by Monroeville’s Kylee Brooks ended it.
New Bremen took a 6-1 lead in the fifth game, but the Eagles cut it down to 7-4. Two Monroeville defensive miscues gave the Cardinals a 9-4 lead, and they led by at least four the rest of the way.
Monroeville coach Kendra Snook said the team lost its ball control in the last three games and struggled to defend against New Bremen’s serving. The Cardinals had nine team aces, while the Eagles had three.
“When we lost our ball control, that allowed them to use all of their hitters, just like they’re so strong in doing,” Snook said. “When we lost our ball control, we gave them a lot of free balls, so they could run their offense effectively. Our ball control was pretty tough in games one and two, and that allowed us to be able to win those two.”
Paul had 14 kills while Kremer had 12 and Reinhart had eight. Kremer led the squad with seven block assists while Madison Pape, Puthoff and Paul each had two aces. Thieman had 23 assists and Madison Pape had 22. Blake Snider led the team with 20 digs.
New Bremen will try for its second consecutive state title at 11 a.m. on Saturday in Fairborn. Kramer said she was impressed with what she saw of Calvert (25-3) in Thursday’s first semifinal. The Senecas beat Clay 25-10, 25-13, 25-16.
“I think they’re a lot like us,” Kramer said. “They’re hungry, they’re humble, they’re well-coached, they’re disciplined. It’s going to be a battle.”