TROY — The wins have come with relative ease for Fort Loramie in October. The Redskins got one of their easiest yet in a Division IV district final against Cincinnati Country Day on Saturday at Troy High School’s Trojan Activities Center.
Fort Loramie cruised to a 25-9, 25-10, 25-5 victory over the Indians to earn the program’s 12th consecutive district title. The squad advances to face Lancaster Fairfield Christian in a Div. IV regional semifinal on Thursday at Northmont High School’s Thunderdome.
It’s the 11th consecutive victory for the Redskins (24-2), which haven’t lost since a 3-1 defeat at New Bremen on Sept. 21.
Fort Loramie, which was ranked No. 4 in D-IV in the final state coaches association poll, hasn’t lost a set since a 3-2 win over Fort Recovery on Sept. 28 and hasn’t allowed more than 14 points in a set since a 3-0 win over Anna on Oct. 3.
“We’re playing really good,” Fort Loramie junior middle hitter McKenzie Hoelscher said. “We went through a slump where we weren’t playing as well. I think we’re really getting back on top of it, and I think it starts with our defense, getting good sets and good hits. We’ve been doing a really good job of terminating the ball.”
New Bremen was the No. 2 ranked team in D-IV in the final state poll, and Fort Loramie’s other loss came to the top-ranked team. The Redskins lost to St. Henry in the Coldwater Spikeoff on Aug. 17.
Part of the reason recent wins have been so easy is because the competition the Redskins have faced in the tournament doesn’t compare to what they see in regular-season play from either Shelby County Athletic League opponents or Midwest Athletic Conference schools like New Bremen and St. Henry in nonconference games.
The wins have been so easy that Fort Loramie coach John Rodgers said he and his staff have tried to increase the intensity in practice to keep the squad ready for state-level competition.
“What we’re doing every day in practice is working, and that’s what we’re trying to do, to be ready for the teams that we’re going to meet down the road,” Rodgers said. “Our practices — they’re tough, let’s put it that way. We’re making sure that our girls understand that conditioning still has to be there, the toughness of the practices still have to be there.”
Fort Loramie will try to earn its first state berth since 2014 next weekend at Northmont. A state semifinal win could potentially earn a rematch New Bremen or St. Henry in a state final at Wright State’s Nutter Center on Nov. 9. The Cardinals, which had won the Northmont regional the last two years, are playing with St. Henry in a regional at Elida High School this year.
Many of the team’s players — like Hoelscher — also play basketball and have been a part of teams that have lost in regional finals the last two years.
“I think it’s a mental barrier for us that we’ve got to get over,” Hoelscher said of losing in regional games. “We’ve got to get our minds right and believe that we can make it to the next level. It’s a mental thing before it’s a physical thing. I think we’re physically there, and now we just need to be mentally there.”
Hoelscher, who was named the Shelby County Athletic League player of the year earlier this month, has led the team’s strong attack at the net. She entered the game with a team-best 295 kills and 52 blocks.
She hasn’t been doing it alone, though. Sophomore outside hitter Ava Sholtis (203 kills), senior outside hitter Marissa Meiring (128) and sophomore Jada Drees (73) have helped, and all players had helped the squad amass 301 team aces heading into Saturday’s match.
It’s the kind of potential Hoelscher said the team knew it had last season, when it entered tournament play with a 10-12 record before advancing to a regional semifinal.
“I think everyone was really hungry after last year,” Hoelscher said. “Almost getting (to state), you just want to finish. We were right there, and we just have to take that next step to get to the next level.”
With Russia, Anna and Jackson Center having lost talented and experienced senior classes, the Redskins didn’t have much problems in going undefeated in SCAL play this season and capturing their first league title since 2013. They lost only one set in their 12 league victories.
And just as they’ve had more success in regular season, Rodgers is hoping for greater success in the tournament after losing in regional games the last four years.
“With all the injuries we had last year, it seemed like we had to run a different rotation out every set,” Rodgers said. “We’re pretty much injury free right now. For them to be healthy and out there, that’s what you hope for.”
The Redskins dominated from the start on Saturday and scored the first 13 points in the first game. Hoelscher had seven kills in the first set to help the squad establish early control. Fort Loramie had 14 kills to Country Day’s three and five aces to one by the Indians.
Things didn’t get any harder in the second set. The Redskins took a 15-6 lead and then scored 10 of the last 14 to close it out. They had 12 kills in the game while Country Day (15-7) managed one.
Fort Loramie pulled away fast in the last set to close it out.
Now, the Redskins will look to close out a regional title next weekend at Northmont.
“We’re going to have incredibly tough days of practice getting prepared for it,” Rodgers said. “Going into that gym, being able to control your emotions is huge. I think we’ve done a pretty good job of that in the past. My seniors provide excellent leadership in that department.”
Hoelscher led the squad with 17 kills in the match while Sholtis had seven and Meiring had five. Maya Maurer had 35 assists, Macy Imwalle had 18 digs and Sholtis had 15 digs.
Reach Bryant Billing at 937-538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter and @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook.