FORT LORAMIE — The Fort Loramie Redskins will find out in a hurry just how they match up against some of the area’s top volleyball teams. And the Redskins, who graduated eight seniors from a regional finalist team, have no plans on slowing down.
Loramie coach John Rodgers is optimistic the Redskins can again contend for the Shelby County Athletic League title and make a deep postseason run. The first test comes during the season opener when Coldwater hosts teams like Fort Loramie, Versailles, Miami East and St. Henry. The first four teams all reached regional finals.
St. Henry reached the Division IV district final before losing to eventual state champion New Bremen. Fort Loramie gets St. Henry in its opener.
“You can come out of there 1-2 and be a state champ,” Rodgers said.
State-caliber talent returns for Loramie, especially at the net. The Redskins return their top three leaders in kills. Junior outside hitter Marissa Meiring led Loramie with 225 kills, sophomore middle hitter McKenzie Hoelscher added 190 and senior outside hitter Chloe Stang 160.
Hoelscher led the team in blocks (53). She and Meiring (18) are the only returning players who reached double digits last season as four graduated seniors accounted for 138 blocks.
Stang led Fort Loramie in digs (301) and senior libero Emily Austin was fourth (265). The Redskins also deliver some pop from the service line as Meiring was second in aces (46), Hoelscher third (42) and Stang fourth (30).
“They’re leaders on and off the court,” Rodgers said. “Marissa and McKenzie are both leaders on the basketball team so they’ve been to the regional finals in basketball and volleyball. They definitely have experience playing in big matches.”
As for holes to fill, one of the team’s biggest graduation losses came at setter where 809 of the team’s 964 assists came from a senior.
But, Rodgers said, the roster is deep at every position and competition for playing time “has been tremendous.” That will help contend for the SCAL title. Loramie, 17-11 overall last season, finished tied for second with Russia at 9-3. Anna won the SCAL at 10-2.
Loramie beat Russia 3-1 in the Division IV regional semifinals before falling to eventual state champion New Bremen in four sets, winning the first one 25-19 before dropping the next three 20-25, 13-25, 17-25.
“Once you’ve been in that situation, in that gym with so much on the line, with so much on the line you don’t really lose. You learn how to get better,” Rodgers said of the valuable tournament experience. “I think it really helps the girls realize they can play with any team around. They can compete at that level. Getting to the final four is not a dream, it’s a reality as long as we do our job during the season.”
Meiring, Hoelscher, Stang and Austin enter with the big stats from last season. But much like last season Rodgers doesn’t want to focus the offense around one person. The team approach is again emphasized for the Redskins.
“One of the things we’re stressing is we want everyone involved,” Rodgers said.
Especially facing a tough season opener against St. Henry at Coldwater’s tournament. And don’t forget that loaded D-IV postseason field. Loramie’s regional has produced the last 11 state champions.
“It’s a measuring stick because them and New Bremen and Marion are kind of the big horses right now in our division,” Rodgers said of the postseason brackets. “We get a look at them early. It’s going to be just like last year. Whose it going to be? … As much as we battle it out I think all (the coaches) enjoy it. That’s why we’re doing it.”