FAIRBORN — Jackson Center has gone more than three games only twice this season out of 29 matches.
And now they are 1-1 in those meetings.
The first time, it was five sets at Fort Loramie and it was the Lady Tigers only loss of the season. But the second time came Friday in the Division 4 state semifinals, and it was a nailbiter between the No. 2 and No. 3-ranked teams in the final coaches poll, both of whom entered with only one loss on the year.
Jackson Center got off to a great start, rolling to an easy win in the first game by a 25-11 score. But two games later, the No. 2 Lady Tigers were down two sets to one to Monroeville, who won 25-22, 25-20 in games two and three.
“You’d always like it to be 25-0, 25-0, 25-0,” said Jackson coach Kim Metz. “But that doesn’t happen. In the second and third games, we stopped being aggressive, so I kinda got in the girls’ faces and told them they had to start being aggressive again. We were just free-balling the ball over, and that was a great team we faced with some great weapons. And those teams are going to take advantage if you don’t stay aggressive.”
They dug down deep and got back on track in the fourth game, leading the entire way. However, Monroeville came back from a 12-7 deficit reached on a Kamryn Elchert ace serve to pull within two points at 18-16.
But successive kills by sisters Cassie and Pauline Meyer made it 21-16, then an attack error was followed by another C. Meyer kills to make it 22-16, forcing a timeout by Monroeville. When the two teams returned to the floor, P. Meyer’s kill made it 23-16, and after Monroeville scored on a Paige Leitz kill, C. Meyer had two straight kills to end the match 25-17 and keep the Lady Tigers alive.
The two teams battled each other hard in the final set, with Monroeville jumping on top 2-0 before Jackson scored two in a row on a kill by Pauline Meyer and a block by Erin Metz and Christen Ware.
An attack error by Monroeville made it 4-3 Jackson Center and the Lady Tigers would not trail again. It appeared to be all but over when a kill by Cassie Meyer, a bad set by Monroeville, a kill by Alicia Kessler and an ace by C. Meyer gave the Lady Tigers a 12-7 bulge.
But after a timeout, Monroeville regained the momentum, scoring the next four points to cut the lead to 12-11.
Cassie Meyer came through with another kill to make it 13-11, but the Lady Eagles scored the next two to tie it up.
Pauline Meyer’s kill made it 14-13, but a kill by Brianna Kramer tied the game again at 14-14.
Jackson retook the lead on a kill by Metz, and when Kramer committed an attack error, it was finally over and the Lady Tigers were in the championship game.
They will take on Waterford today at 5 p.m. and be heavily favored, since Waterford was unranked this season.
Cassie Meyer was spectacular for the Lady Tigers, pounding out 27 kills and finishing with a .304 attack percentage in 69 total attempts. She also had 14 digs and three ace serves.
“Cassie was quite the clutch player for us today,” said Metz. “It got to the point where we realized that Monroeville could not handle what she was doing. So I told the setter that if she could, get the ball to her. Then in set five, we were able to run our middles again and give her a little break.”
Metz finished with seven kills and Pauline Meyer had six kills and 14 digs. Elchert handed out 23 assists and added 14 digs, Peyton Esser led the defense with 20 digs, and Cameron Hoehne had nine digs.
Vanessa Winner added four kills and four digs, and Ware also had four kills.
Kremer had 24 kills for Monroeville, which finishes the season with a 26-2 record. Leitz had 16 kills and Haley Kramer 11 kills.
Jackson Center, now 28-1, rolled in the first game, despite falling behind early. From a 3-3 tie, the Lady Tigers opened up a 13-4 bulge, with five of the points coming on kills by Cassie Meyer, who had 11 in the first set alone.
In the second game, Jackson led 16-14 before Monroeville scored the next four points. Jackson pulled even at 18-18 on back-to-back kills by C. Meyer, but Monroeville scored six of the next nine points for a 24-21 lead. After a kill by Metz, a Jackson Center block went out of bounds, giving the set to the Lady Eagles.
The third game was tied at 4-4 before Monroeville scored four in a row and never relinquished the lead. The margin was up to 18-11 and the Lady Tigers could get no closer than five after that to fall behind 2-1.
But they weren’t to be denied.
Tickets on sale
Tickets for today’s championship game, slated for 5 p.m. at The Nutter Center, will be on sale this morning from 8:30 to 11 at the school.