FORT LORAMIE — A handful of names have been mentioned when talking frontrunners for the Shelby County Athletic League girls volleyball title.
Co-defending champions Jackson Center and Russia are again strong. Runner-up Anna returns a versatile lineup. Fairlawn has moved into the mix. And then there’s Fort Loramie.
The Redskins are usually near the top of the SCAL standings. Being at the top has been rare, though. Even in 2014 when the squad won the Division IV state title, it didn’t win the SCAL.
Fort Loramie coach John Rodgers would prefer to play an underdog role rather than being tabbed a frontrunner with the daily grind of the SCAL.
“It’s kind of a nice gesture, but at the same time I know there are so many good coaches in this conference. That’s the catch,” Rodgers said. “It’s tough. My prediction is it’s probably going to come down to the last week of the season just like it has the past few years.”
Fort Loramie finished 14-13 overall last season and 6-6 in the SCAL. The Redskins reached a Division IV regional semifinal game before falling to state runner-up New Bremen.
Four seniors return to provide solid play and leadership with outside hitter Marissa Meiring (257 digs, 248 kills, 355 serve receptions, 31 aces), defensive specialists Taylor Raterman (68 digs, 23 aces) and Macy Imwalle (62 digs, 99 serve receptions) and middle hitter Alyssa Wrasman (60 kills, 59 serve receptions).
“They’re going to have to lead some of these younger players through some tough times. It’s a grind,” Rodgers said. “They’re also basketball players so they know what it’s all about. They’re going to have to step up in a leadership role. Volleyball-wise they’re going to contribute. There’s no doubt about that. Leadership is going to be there most important piece of what they do for this team.”
Junior setter Maya Maurer (432 assists, 29 blocks, 30 aces), junior middle hitter McKenzie Hoelscher (87 kills, 27 blocks), sophomore outside hitter Ava Sholtis (210 kills, 189 digs, 311 serve receptions) and sophomore middle hitter Jada Drees (92 kills, 27 blocks) also return with quality experience.
The SCAL will certainly prepare Fort Loramie for the postseason. The preseason wasn’t easy, either.
Rodgers said programs like Massillon Jackson, Sylvania Northview and Cincinnati Mercy McCauley made the long trip to Shelby County to get some experience, themselves.
“Volleyball in this part of Ohio is just ridiculous. That’s an understatement,” Rodgers said. “Teams are coming from a good distance to get a chance to play this level of competition that they don’t get every day.”
Last season the Redskins battled through injuries. As many as 15 players participated in 10 sets or more to give Loramie varsity depth for this season.
“On the bright side, they’ve played at that level and kind of know what to expect going through the league,” Rodgers said.
“Our word (of the season) so far has been patience. Letting things come together. What is this person capable of? Being patient with players and letting them evolve on their own. I’m seeing some really neat things out of these kids. … I love the fact they come to practice every day and they want to learn. They want to be there. They’re so much fun to be around. They’re willing to put forth the effort to be where they want to be at the end. It’s a really exciting group to be around.”