KETTERING — With the score tied 24-24 and Versailles leading the match 2-0, Miami East’s Gabrielle Hawkins made save after save in the backcourt, doing everything possible to keep the Vikings’ tournament hopes alive.
In the end, though, the Tigers simply continued to send punishing shot after shot over the net, winning what proved to be the longest rally of the match and then scoring an ace by Rebecca Knapke on the next point to close out a sweep as Versailles defeated Miami East 25-14, 25-20, 26-24 in the Division III regional semifinal round Thursday at Fairmont’s Trent Arena.
It was the third straight year that the Vikings’ season has ended with a loss to Versailles in the regional tournament. Last year, the Tigers defeated the Vikings in the regional semifinal, as well, and in 2017 Versailles defeated East in the regional final — both times going on to win the state championship. And in 2016, the Vikings defeated the Tigers in the regional semifinal on the way to a state title of their own.
“We did a good job of fighting there at the end,” Miami East coach Dan Peterson said. “The girls did what we asked. But we’ve gotten to know Versailles well over the years, and they just do everything so well. They take a cue from (coach) Kenzie (Bruggeman) herself with how tough and intense she is, and it shows in the way they play.”
Versailles, which improved to 15-12 with the win, advances to face Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy in Saturday’s regional final. But, thanks to playing in the Midwest Athletic Conference during the regular season, Bruggeman feels her Tigers will be ready for anything they might see.
“It’s unreal. You get out of it and see the different types of competition and the records, and it really just doesn’t compare,” Bruggeman said. “The speed of it, the athleticism, the intensity, we’re so fortunate to be in that all season. I’ll take that over a bad record any day.”
Miami East, which finished 18-9, knew exactly what it was going to see from Versailles with four players at 6-foot or higher in the lineup — and the Vikings topping out at 5-10.
The Tigers used that to their advantage early on, with Lindsey Winner helping Knapke serve up a six-point run with three early kills to spot Versailles a 6-1 first-set lead. Later, with the Vikings still staying close down 14-12, Winner had a personal six-point run, putting down four kills and a pair of blocks to give the Tigers an eight-point lead, and they closed the set out from there.
“I’m sick of seeing Winner girls in the lineup for them,” Peterson said with a smile. “We knew it was going to be a struggle with their height and our lack of height. We had some luck doing some things trying to slow it down and hit to different spots, but when they keep coming in waves at you that tall, it’s a little more difficult.”
“It definitely plays a factor,” Bruggeman said. “We work on blocking a ton because we know how much of an asset it can be. Sophie (Jacomet) is a great player and (Sierra Kinnison) is a great player, and to be able to slow them down a little bit and make them uncomfortable was definitely to our advantage.”
In the second set, the Vikings kept the score tied as late as 16-16 after a kill by Jacomet, but a block by Raegen Shaffer, a kill by Brooke Stonebraker and an ace by Winner helped push the Versailles lead to 21-16, and the Tigers held East off from there to take a 2-0 lead.
And in the third, Versailles led by as many as five at 13-8, but the Vikings battled throughout the set in an attempt to stave off elimination. Jacomet had three kills late to help close the gap, and a block by Nichole Hood tied the score at 24-24. East then kept the next point alive as long as possible, but hit after hit by the Tigers finally wore the Vikings down and they couldn’t return one to set up match point, and Knapke served an ace to finish off the match.
Winner finished with a match-high 17 kills, four blocks and one ace, Stonebraker added 12 kills and two blocks, Shaffer had three kills and two blocks and Emma George had three kills.
Jacomet, another senior who broke the 1,000 career digs mark this season, led the Vikings with seven kills, two aces and 10 digs on the night.
“She did (play well). She’s another four-year starter, senior for us, started on our state championship team in 2016,” Peterson said of Jacomet. “We expect her to come out and play well, and she did. No surprises from her, either.”
Hawkins led the defense with 22 digs and added two assists and an ace, Megan Gilliland had five kills, two and one ace, Nichole Hood had five kills, eight digs and one ace, Sierra Kinnison had three kills six digs and two assists, Gretchen Frock had 15 assists, five digs and one ace and Megan McDowell had one assist.
It was the final match in the careers of seniors Hawkins, Jacomet, Hood, Frock and Lauren Fisher.
New Bremen 3, St. Henry 0
For the second consecutive year, the Cardinals avenged a regular-season loss to Midwest Athletic Conference rival St. Henry by beating the Redskins in a tournament game.
New Bremen won 25-19, 25-21, 25-20 in a Division IV regional semifinal at Elida High School’s Fieldhouse to advance to a final on Saturday against defending state champion Tiffin Calvert. Calvert edged the Cardinals 3-2 in last season’s state final.
In Thursday night’s first set, New Bremen (25-1) jumped out to a 6-1 lead, forcing St. Henry to call a quick timeout.
The Redskins regrouped and battled back, cutting the deficit to two points, twice. However, New Bremen closed out the first set down the stretch to notch a 4-point victory. The front-line play of the Cardinals proved to be the difference in the second set. Claire Pape had a couple key kills late to help spur the Cardinals.
In the second set, New Bremen started strong, but St. Henry (23-3) responded. The scored was knotted three times before the Cardinals finally pulled away for a 4-point win. Macy Puthoff led New Bremen in that second set with seven kills.
In the third set, St. Henry finally opened with a lead.The Redskins’ largest lead was 5, 14-9. However, New Bremen battled back and knotted the score at 14. The Cardinals then went on an 11-1 run to pull out to a 20-15 lead.
Puthoff had 15 kills for the Cardinals while Josie Reinhart had seven, Taylor Paul had six and Pape and Ashton Heitkamp had five. Pape led the squad with 26 assists. Diana Heitkamp had three aces and a team-high 16 digs.
AIM Media Midwest freelancer Mark Alstaetter contributed to this article.