FAIRBORN — New Knoxville advanced in the nightcap Division IV state semifinal volleyball match on Thursday at Wright State University’s Nutter Center to set up an all-Midwest Athletic Conference state final.
The Rangers (26-2) beat South Webster 25-21, 25-11, 14-25, 25-20 to advance to face St. Henry (22-6) in the D-IV state final on Saturday in Fairborn. New Knoxville beat the Redskins 25-15, 25-21, 21-25, 25-19 in a MAC match on Oct. 7 in St. Henry.
“Any team in our league is competitive, and we know going into it is a dogfight,” New Knoxville coach Meg Lageman said. “We certainly know that this game is going to be a dogfight. We’ll definitely have to be ready.”
It’s the second state title match berth in program history for New Knoxville and its third overall state appearance. The Rangers finished as D-IV runner-up in 2006.
It’s been a steady climb in recent seasons for the Rangers. The squad finished 15-9 in 2018 and 17-7 in 2019 before earning the MAC title and finishing 21-1 in 2020.
The Rangers beat New Bremen, the 2017 and 2019 D-IV champ and 2018 and 2020 runner-up, in regular season in 2020 before losing to the Cardinals in a district final.
This year, New Knoxville turned the tables on the Cardinals. New Bremen won a regular-season match 3-1 on Oct. 12 to stay undefeated and earn the MAC title, but the Rangers won a district final matchup 3-1 on Oct. 28 to hand the Cardinals their only loss of the season.
New Knoxville followed by beating Leipsic 3-0 in a regional semifinal and defending state champion Tiffin Calvert 3-1 in a regional final.
“It means a lot,” senior middle blocker Avery Henschen said. “All of us after high school are going our separate ways. We’ve been together since junior high volleyball. It really just tied us together and made us push for this last chance.”
New Knoxville struggled early as South Webster built a 10-5 lead. But senior middle hitter Carsyn Henschen recorded five consecutive kills to help the Rangers tie it 10-10, and they kept up the momentum and pulled away for a 25-21 win.
New Knoxville dominated the second game and seemed on its way to a quick win. But with Carsyn Henschen in the back row, South Webster found success in the third game.
The Jeeps built an early 6-5 lead and later scored 11 consecutive points to pull away to an 11-point win.
“They definitely kept us out of system,” Lageman said. “I told them that we just needed to work harder. We just needed to be in system, not only on our offense, but in our defense too. We just needed to play every point like it’s your last. I thought they responded well in the fourth set and did that.”
South Webster built an early 6-3 lead in the fourth set. The teams traded points to a 10-7 score before New Knoxville scored five of the next six to take a 12-11 lead. South Webster forced three ties after that, but New Knoxville went on an 8-4 run to pull away.
Carsyn Henschen led New Knoxville with 30 kills and eight total blocks while Avery Henschen had 16 kills and 20 digs. Haley Fledderjohann had 17 digs. Ellie Gabel had 51 assists and 12 digs.