TROY — Fort Loramie has been resilient throughout this season. It’s been necessary while playing a schedule loaded with regional and state-caliber opponents combined with many players suffering injuries.
The Redskins showed their resiliency late in each match in a Division IV district final against Lehman Catholic at Troy’s Trojan Activities Center on Saturday. Though the Cavaliers kept it close through most of all three games, Fort Loramie pulled away in each to earn a 25-20, 25-17, 25-19 victory.
“This team is just resilient,” Fort Loramie coach John Rodgers said. “They’ve been through so much this year, and they just never give up. They just showed how tough they can be. It’s the expectations that are set early in the year, and it doesn’t matter who’s out there or what’s going on, because the expectation is you’re going to go out there and you’re going to play hard and walk out with no regrets, win or lose.”
Fort Loramie (14-12) has won 11 consecutive district titles and advances to face defending Div. IV state champion New Bremen in a regional semifinal on Thursday at Northmont’s Thunderdome.
Lehman Catholic (17-9) was close late in both the first and second sets, but Fort Loramie went on big runs to put both away. After an 18-18 tie in the first set, the Redskins scored six straight to build an insurmountable lead. They were clinging to an 18-17 lead late in the second before scoring the last seven points to close it out.
After Lehman pulled within 19-17 in the third game, Fort Loramie scored five of the next six to re-take control.
“Everybody was just cheering for each other, and the energy was up,” Fort Loramie junior outside hitter Marissa Meiring said. “When someone does something good, it just gets the whole team pumped. I think that really helped today.”
The Redskins hovered around .500 until losing five matches in a nine-day span in late September. They dropped to 9-12 with a loss to Shelby County Athletic League rival Anna on Oct. 4 but have won five straight.
“I’m worried about the girls being successful and being in a positive mode and pushing forward,” Rodgers said. “We tried to stress that you don’t really lose, you just learn. You do what you need to do to get better, and they took that and ran with it. They always worked to get better.”
Meiring said the team’s players focused on improving heading into tournament after struggling at the end of the regular season.
“We just knew we had to fix a lot of things and work hard in practice every day and make adjustments,” Meiring said. “We worked really hard throughout the season to do that.”
The Cavaliers will lose six players to graduation, including setter Alexis Snipes, the daughter of longtime coach Greg Snipes.
“They gave us four great years,” Greg Snipes said of the seniors. “They came in and worked hard every day. I told them that we exceeded what we did last year record-wise and tournament-wise, and that makes it a very successful year.”
The teams traded points throughout the first the first game. Fort Loramie took a 19-18 lead after a kill by McKenzie Hoelscher on a hard spike, which caused Lehman to call a timeout. Hoelscher then had a block to score the first point after the timeout, and Fort Loramie followed by scoring the next four to run away with it.
The Cavaliers jumped out to a 7-3 lead in the second game, but Fort Loramie came back and tied it 10-10. Holescher had a kill to put Fort Loramie up 13-12, and Marissa Meiring later had a kill on a hard one-handed spike to increase the lead to 17-15.
“We had to cheer ourselves up,” Meiring said of the slow start in the second set. “Everyone knows they’re going to make mistakes, but you just have to get over it and move on. That’s what we tell each other every time.”
After Lehman pulled within one, Meiring had a kill to put the Redskins up 19-17, then two Lehman defensive miscues increased the lead to 21-17. Fort Loramie scored the last four points to close the game out.
“It just seemed like we could never get more than a two-point run,” Snipes said. “We just never got momentum. We’d score a point and either we’d make a mistake or they would have a good play. I thought we had a good start in that second game but they called a timeout and made a good run, and I just thought we never got back to playing like that after that run.”
Fort Loramie scored six consecutive points early in the third game to take control. After trailing 3-2 early, Maya Maurer and Hoelscher combined on a block to put the Redskins ahead 4-3, and they added another four points before Lehman called a timeout.
The Cavaliers pulled within 19-17, but Fort Loramie scored five of the next six to pull away.
Hoelscher, a sophomore middle hitter who played her third match on Saturday since returning from a fractured vertebra, had 10 kills and four blocks.
“She’s the kind of kid where it doesn’t matter if she makes mistakes, she’s going to come back just as hard the next play,” Rodgers said. “That’s something rare in players that you don’t see all the time. She’s still on the mend and getting better, and I’m excited to see where she’s going to go.”
Meiring had nine kills and eight digs, while Ava Sholtis had 10 kills. Chloe Stang had five kills, Maurer had 18 assists, Aleah Frilling had 12 assists, Emily Austin had 14 digs and Hannah Pleiman had six digs.
The Redskins will try to knock off the defending state champion Cardinals in a regional semifinal on Thursday. They lost to New Bremen 25-15, 25-23 in a tri-match on Sept. 22.
“We know they’re good — they’ve always been good,” Meiring said. “We just need to work hard, play as a team. If we play our best, the outcome doesn’t matter.”
The Cardinals beat Fort Loramie 3-1 in a regional final match last season.
“It’s going to take us being aggressive,” Rodgers said. “Everybody always asks how you prepare. You’ve got to take care of yourself first. It’s going to take a good three days of preparation here this week of what we do well. If that’s good enough, great. We know what some of their players do and we understand how they play. We have to be good at what we do first, or what they do doesn’t matter.”
Reach Bryant Billing at 937-538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter and @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook.