BROOKVILLE — Anna fell short of its goal to repeat as Shelby County Athletic League champions due to a pair of losses to league co-champs Russia and Jackson Center.
The Rockets are hoping lessons taken from those four losses and four nonconference losses will help them reach another goal of winning a Division III regional title and advancing to the final four. They took their first step toward that goal with a 25-7, 25-7, 25-5 win over No. 16 seed Indian Lake in a sectional quarterfinal on Wednesday at Brookville High School.
Anna, which is the sectional’s No. 2 seed, has won district titles the last three years but has had its tournament runs halted by regional semifinal losses.
“Our senior class came up with our goals at the beginning of the year, and we’ve been in that regional spot for a long time,” Anna coach Kelli Zumberger said. “They want (that state berth) bad. Even just getting to that regional final.
“This was a good first step but we can’t look ahead. We’ve got some good teams in this sectional we have to beat first.”
Anna (15-8) was 7-2 in early September before running into Div. IV Midwest Athletic Conference powers New Bremen and New Knoxville in a two-day span. They then lost matchups with the Raiders and Tigers — both 3-2 — over the next month.
“Obviously it’s hard to lose, but I think a team that loses wants it so much more,” senior middle hitter Emma Meyer said. “We definitely want it this year, and I think we’re going to make a run.”
Anna had no problems with Indian Lake on Wednesday. The Lakers struggled to return much, and when they did, it oftentimes was out-of-bounds.
Meyer said the team was pleased with the win, especially considering they hadn’t played since a 3-2 win over Fort Loramie on Oct. 4.
“It was a really long break,” Meyer said. “We’re not used to practicing. Our schedule’s pretty intense during the regular season, and it’s a hard schedule. So it’s nice just to come in and come out with the W.”
Anna amassed a 9-1 lead on a block from Meyer in the first game and cruised to a big win. Meyer had a kill to open the second game as the Rockets scored the first 15 points. Indian Lake played better late but couldn’t do anything other than chip away at the final margin.
Anna cruised to a 20-point win in the fourth game.
Meyer was selected first team all-SCAL this season after racking up 308 kills and a conference-high 91 blocks. She had a boatload of both on Wednesday and forms a formidable front line with junior middle hitter Lauren Barhorst and junior outside hitter Macy Wiktorowski among others.
“I definitely think our front row is a good weapon, but I think our back row is pretty scrappy,” Meyer said. “Having Lexi (Wells) as our setter, she can get to any ball, and if our back row is having a bad game, Lexi can pick them up. I think overall we’re a good well-rounded team.”
Anna played powerfully enough to impress West Liberty-Salem players. Meyer’s hard spikes drew frequent praise from the Tigers’ personnel, who watched most of the match before taking on Preble Shawnee in Wednesday’s second quarterfinal.
West Liberty, which entered Wednesday’s second sectional quarterfinal against Preble Shawnee with a 15-7 record, is Anna’s potential sectional final opponent.
“I think our schedule has definitely prepared us,” Zumberger said. “Indian Lake is a good team, and I thought we did a really good job of just staying disciplined. It really helps playing the Russia’s and the Jackson’s when we get to this point.
“We’ve had really good practices — especially in the last week — and the girls were just ready to get after it.”
Before a potential matchup with the No. 6 Tigers, Anna will have to beat No. 18 Carlisle (4-18) on Saturday afternoon in Brookville.
“I think knowing every game could be your last is going to help us get through this mentally,” Zumberger said. “I think the girls are really taking that in stride.”
Indian Lake finishes regular season with a 5-17 record.
Reach Bryant Billing at 937-538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter and @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook.