JACKSON CENTER — When you look at the accomplishments of Jackson Center’s state semifinal opponent in Division 4, Monroeville, you’d have to wonder why it’s not a matchup of the top two-ranked teams in Ohio Friday at 4 p.m. at the Nutter Center.
Monroeville comes into the game with a 26-1 record, and owns both the victories over the team that was ranked No. 1 all season long, McComb.
But it’s an intriguing matchup in the semifinals Friday, with the No. 2 Lady Tigers, 27-1, going up against the No. 3 Lady Eagles. The winner will return on Saturday to play either Waterford (21-6) or New Philadelphia Tuscarawas Central Catholic (23-5) for the state championship. Both those teams are unranked.
Jackson and Monroeville won’t be totally unfamiliar with each other when they take the floor. They scrimmaged in preseason.
“We had the opportunity to scrimmage them so we know that they are a very good team,” said Monroeville coach Kendra Snook. “Our motto all year has been to play the games one at a time, so we’re working hard and focusing on this game. Each match gets harder.”
Saturday’s regional final was difficult enough for Monroeville. The Lady Eagles lost their first two games before taking the last three to advance to the state tournament.
The only loss this season for Monroeville came to Gates Mills Gilmour Academy, which is playing in the Division 3 state semifinals against Miami East.
“We’ve played some tough competition and lots of highly-ranked teams,” said Monroeville’s coach. “We have a very senior-led team, five seniors that have the will to win. All the girls work extremely hard and they are very excited to head down to Dayton for the first time in school history.”
Jackson Center lost only once this season, to County rival Fort Loramie in five games. It was their only match this season that went beyond three games, and the Lady Tigers were able make it two out of three against Fort Loramie (the defending D-4 champs) by beating the Lady Redskins 3-0 in the regional championship Saturday in Tipp City.
“We feel very blessed and thankful to be making our third trip to the final four,” said longtime Jackson Center coach Kim Metz. “This team has set a whole new standard. The players have been together and worked hard to get to this point.”
Jackson Center lost in the state semifinals in 2007 to Norwalk St. Paul, then lost in the state championship game the very next year to Marion Local in four.
The Lady Tigers are led by junior standout Cassie Meyer, a first-team All-Ohio selection by the Ohio High School Volleyball Coaches Association. She has 376 kills and 275 digs so far, and also has a deadly jump serve that has led to 77 aces so far.
Her older sister Pauline has 181 kills this season, along with 234 digs and 48 aces, and 6-foot-2 Alicia Kessler is at 140 kills and 41 blocks. Erin Metz has 128 kills and a team-high 46 blocks this season, and Peyton Esser leads the defense with 362 kills.
In the Lady Tigers’ 6-2, Kamryn Elchert has dished out 466 assists and Jayel Frye 203. Elchert also has 49 aces, second behind C. Meyer.
“Cassie is a driving force, no question,” said Metz. “She has a dynamic jump serve and she’s the eyes and ears of the team. Pauline was the County Player of the Year last year and is very much a force and a quiet leader, and Peyton, this is her first year as libero and she’s really owned it.
“We’re not as tall as Monroeville, but we have some great athletes and a lot of determination,” she added. “I think it’s going to be a fantastic match.”
Monroeville outside hitter Breanna Kramer, a senior, is first-team All-Ohio and her twin sister Haley is a second-team pick at middle blocker. Both are six-footers, and Paige Light, who was first-team all-district, is 6-1.
Breama Kramer has over 1,400 kills and digs in her career, and has 390 kills this season along with 429 digs. H. Kramer has 279 kills and 104 blocks, and Light has 279 kills.
“This was the first year we opened up our schedule to travel and play some top-notch teams,” said Snook. “It was a good experience in our loss (to Gilmour Academy) and I think it helped our focus. Beating McComb on their own court during the season was a confidence-builder, and the match against them in the regional was one of the best I’ve ever been involved in. Our girls showed a lot of heart and desire, and they will have to again against Jackson Center.”
Volleyball State Tournament Pairings
Pairings are shown with state rank and records
All games at the Nutter Center, Wright State University
#4 Massillon Jackson (27-1) vs. #1 Dublin Coffman (25-2) – Friday, at noon.
#2 Toledo St. Ursula Academy (25-2) vs. #3 Cincinnati Mount Notre Dame (21-6) – Friday at 2 p.m.
Championship: Saturday, November 14 at 3 p.m.
#2 Chardon Notre Dame-Cathedral Latin (23-3) #14 Lexington (24-4) – Thursday at 4 p.m.
#4 Middletown Bishop Fenwick (23-4) #3 Plain City Jonathan Alder (27-0) – Thursday at 6 p.m.
Championship: Saturday, November 14 at 1 p.m.
#9 Zoarville Tuscarawas Valley (22-4) vs. #1 St. Henry (27-0) – Thursday at noon
#17 Miami East (23-4) vs. #3 Gates Mills Gilmour Academy (24-3) – Thursday at 2 p.m.
Championship: Saturday, November 14 at 11 a.m.
#3 Monroeville (26-1) vs. #2 JACKSON CENTER (27-1) – Friday at 4 p.m.
New Philadelphia Tuscarawas Central Cath. (23-5) vs. Waterford (21-6) – Friday at 6 p.m.
Championship: Saturday, November 14 at 5 p.m.
Reach Ken Barhorst at 937-538-4818