By Matt Zircher
DAYTON — Two years, two Division 4 state volleyball titles for the Shelby County League.
The Jackson Center Lady Tigers accomplished the feat in record-setting fashion Saturday, cruising to a 25-14, 25-15, 25-9 decision over the Tuscarawas Central Catholic Lady Saints in a match that took just 50 minutes to play.
Jackson ends the year with a record of 29-1, the only loss coming to last year’s state champ, Fort Loramie, in the regular season finale. The Lady Tigers dropped just five sets the entire season in winning their first crown in their second appearance in the title match. TCC finishes the season at 24-6.
A kill by Cassie Meyer, the start of a big day for the junior outside hitter, gave the Lady Tigers a quick 2-0 lead in the opening set, but the Saints answered by scoring five of the next six points, two coming on kills from Lauren Fredericks.
That, however, turned out to be the only lead that TCC would enjoy on the afternoon as Jackson responded with seven consecutive points, including three more Meyer kills and two blocks by Alicia Kessler. The Saints closed the margin to two with three in a row, but back came the Tigers with a 9-1 run to go up 19-9, capped off by a kill from Pauline Meyer.
Four consecutive Jackson points broke a 1-1 tie in the second set, the final two points coming on a Meyer kill and a block by Meyer and Kessler, but the Saints hung close and only trailed 8-6 following a Sydney Gilland ace. Two kills by Erin Metz, though, made it 14-9 and the Lady Tigers broke it open with a 5-0 burst, the final point coming on a Jayel Frye ace, to take a 22-13 advantage.
Any thoughts of a TCC comeback were quickly dashed in the third set as Jackson tallied the first four points and raced out to a 9-2 lead, with three of those points coming on Meyer kills. The Lady Tigers later closed out the match in impressive fashion by scoring the final five points, including another Meyer kill on match point to give her seven kills in 11 attempts for the set.
“It’s an amazing feeling, a dream come true,” said Jackson coach Kim Metz. “This was the year that everything fell into place. When you get to this stage, you need a lot of good fortune and we had that good fortune on our side this year. We had some hiccups in past years, but the dream and passion never changed and it finally paid off today.”
“This group is very much like the group that made the finals in 2008,” added Metz. “They were determined to make things happen and were extremely self-motivated. We didn’t talk about wins or losses, but we have four words that are poignant to us in ‘see you at practice.’ It’s going to be hard on Monday now that the season is over.”
“Jackson Center was definitely at 100 percent today,” said TCC coach Michele Gilland. “We had a lot of errors and they took advantage of them. We’re a young team with just two seniors and this was the first time anyone on our team had seen this kind of atmosphere. “
Jackson finished with 44 kills and just nine errors in 88 attempts for the match, with 32 kills and just three errors in the final two sets. The .398 hitting percentage by the Lady Tigers set a new D-4 state tournament record for a three-set match, shattering the .327 that fellow Shelby County team Lehman accomplished in the 2005 semifinals against Old Fort.
The Saints, meanwhile, had more errors (22) than kills (21) for the match in ending up with a negative hitting percentage of -.011.
Meyer matched TCC’s entire kill total as she had 21 kills and only two errors in 37 attempts in hitting an impressive .514 for the match. The 21 kills also set a new D-4 state tournament record for a three-set match, besting the 18 previously held by four players, including Jackson’s Allissa Ware in the 2008 semifinals against New Washington Buckeye Central.
“It’s an unbelievable feeling,” said Meyer. “Obviously, it couldn’t have happened without our passers and setters. I’m so lucky to have a team like this.”
“Our blockers had a tough time today with their hitters, especially Meyer,” said Gilland. “We went away from going for the block later in the match and tried to take away parts of the floor with our defense, but they were able to find the holes.”
Meyer came up just short of the record for hitting percentage as the Lady Tigers’ Casey Gates hit .600 in that semifinal match against Buckeye Central.
Kameron Elchert dished 19 assists for Jackson while Frye had 13. Peyton Esser recorded 13 digs while Pauline Meyer had 10. Kessler had five blocks.