FAIRBORN — Fort Loramie was cruising early in a Division IV state semifinal on Friday but then had to fight through a late rally attempt from Newark Catholic.
Call it a good tune-up for Saturday.
The Redskins held on and earned a 25-16, 27-25, 20-25, 26-24 victory at Wright State University’s Nutter Center to advance to the Div. IV state championship game at 3 p.m. on Saturday.
They’ll face a familiar opponent, one they know will be tough to beat: New Bremen. The Cardinals advanced to their third consecutive D-IV state final by rallying to beat Monroeville in the fifth set 15-13 to earn a 3-2 victory in Friday’s first semifinal.
“It’s really special,” Fort Loramie junior middle hitter McKenzie Hoelscher said of facing neighboring New Bremen in a state final. “It’s not like we don’t know these people. It’s people we see every day, and it just shows how good our area of volleyball is.”
Fort Loramie (27-2) was knocked out of the tournament after losing to the Cardinals in a regional semifinal a year ago. The squad lost a nonconference matchup at New Bremen 3-1 on Sept. 21 — which is the last time it has lost. The Redskins have won 14 matches since and have lost two sets total in those wins.
“They’re the same team,” Rodgers said of the Cardinals. “They’re going to try to out-tough you. They’re going to try to impose their will on you with what they do. They play a lot like we play. They’re going to come at you, and you’re going to have to stop it.”
The schools, which are separated by eight miles, could feasibly meet in the middle and play the state final at Minster — not that there would be enough seating with the crowds each brought on Friday.
The crowds and the fact the two squads will face off in a state final is a testament to how good area volleyball is according to Rodgers.
“It just shows the level of volleyball in this part of Ohio and the ability of these teams to reach down deep and put it together when it matters,” Rodgers said.
The Redskins built an early 10-6 lead in the first game, then went on a 6-2 run to run away with it. The Green Wave fought the rest of the way, though.
The teams traded points to a 19-19 tie in the second set. Newark Catholic took a 22-19 lead, but the Redskins battled back to tie it 23-23. After the teams traded points to a 25-25 tie, Ava Sholtis had consecutive kills to end it.
The Green Wave built an early 9-5 lead in the third game and later pushed the advantage to as many as nine points. The Redskins rallied to tie it 18-18, but the Green Wave then scored the next two points, then finished the match off by scoring the last four points, thanks in part to three errors by Fort Loramie.
The squads traded points through most of the fourth game until Newark Catholic scored four straight to take a 21-18 lead.
The Green Wave couldn’t hold on, though. A kill by Alyssa Wrasman brought Fort Loramie within 24-22, then Newark Catholic had two errors to make it a 24-23 game. Wrasman had a kill to tie it, then Maya Maurer followed with an ace to give Fort Loramie a 25-24 lead. An error by the Green Wave ended the set and the match.
“That’s a testament to these guys and how they were able to hang in it,” Rodgers said of rallying in the fourth set. “It was a battle out there. It’s not an easy match, and I reminded them in a timeout that they had to buckle down and go to another level they haven’t been to in a long time if they were going to walk out of here a winner.”
Hoelscher led Fort Loramie with 14 kills. Maurer had 20 assists and 14 digs and Macy Imwalle led the squad with 17 digs. Sholtis had six kills and 11 digs and Wrasman had had six kills.
Newark Catholic finishes 19-7.
New Bremen 3, Monroeville 2
New Bremen (27-1) beat Monroeville 25-22, 20-25, 25-23, 19-25, 15-13 in Friday’s first D-IV state semifinal at Wright State to set up Saturday’s state championship match between the two neighboring school districts.
It’s the first real test the squad has faced during this tournament run, but far from the first it has faced the last three years during state runs. The squad, which won a state championship in 2017, beat Monroeville 3-2 in a semifinal last year before losing to Tiffin Calvert 3-2 in a state final.
Monroeville took a two-point lead late in the fifth game, but the Cardinals scored three straight points and never trailed again.
“We sometimes seem to like to dig holes for ourselves,” New Bremen coach Diana Kramer said of battling back. “It happens when you play volleyball, when good teams play volleyball. The thing is, these girls know it’s all about finding a way to go on that next run.”
The Cardinals have beaten familiar opponents so far this postseason. Aside from beating the Eagles on Friday, they beat Calvert in a regional final. They have also posted tournament wins over St. Henry and Minster, both of which they also beat in postseason play last year.
“Our attitude is, it doesn’t matter who’s on the other side, we’re ready to go,” Kramer said.
They’ll get another familiar opponent on Saturday. The squad beat Fort Loramie 3-0 in a regional semifinal last year and also won a nonconference matchup this season 3-1.
“Bring it on,” New Bremen senior setter Claire Pape said of facing the Redskins on Saturday.
Monroeville took a 4-2 lead after an attack error by the Cardinals and a kill by Kylee Brooks, but the Cardinals battled back to tie it 5-5. The teams traded points to a 7-7 tie, then the Eagles took a 9-7 lead after a kill by Reece Kluding and a bad set by New Bremen.
The lead didn’t last, though. After the teams traded points to a 10-8 score, Monroeville committed a service error, then Taylor Paul had a kill to tie it. Macy Puthoff followed with a kill to give New Bremen an 11-10 lead, which caused the Eagles to take a timeout.
Monroeville tied it 11-11, but Puthoff had a kill on hard spike, then Ashton Heitkamp had a kill to give the Cardinals a 13-11 lead.
Brooks had a kill to narrow the gap to one, but Puthoff followed with a kill to give New Bremen a 14-12 lead. After Josie Reinhart sent a ball out of bounds on a spike, a setting error by the Eagles ended it.
Paul had a season-high 23 kills for New Bremen, including eight in the third game. She previously hadn’t had more than 15 in a match.
“She took her teammates on her back tonight,” Kramer said. “Every day, somebody different steps up. Today, it was Taylor’s day to step up, make big plays, put her teammates on her back and score big points. Tomorrow, it may be someone else.”
Puthoff had four of her 11 kills in the fifth game, three of which scored the last five points for the Cardinals.
“I kind of struggled at the beginning,” Puthoff said. “I play for my teammates and I play for my community, and that means stepping up. Making those plays late in the game, (my teammates) helped me out. They were the reason I was able to do that.”
The teams played close early in the first set. New Bremen scored three consecutive points on aces by Reinhart to take a 10-7 lead and later extended the advantage to 15-9 on an ace by Paul.
The Eagles scored six consecutive points to tie it and later took a 22-20 lead after two consecutive kills by Lydia Landoll. After Paul had a kill and Monroeville committed an attack error to close the gap to 23-22, the Eagles responded with a kill, and New Bremen sent a ball out of bounds to end the game.
The Cardinals took control early in the second game by scoring four of five points to take a 10-6 lead. Monroeville pulled within 11-10, but the Cardinals scored the next three go extend the team lead back to four. The Eagles didn’t pull closer than three points the rest of the way.
New Bremen had an 12-11 lead in the fourth game but the Eagles battled back to tie it 23-23. Paul had a kill to put the Cardinals ahead, and the Eagles then had an attack error to end the set.
Monroeville took an early lead in the fourth set and then went on a 7-3 run to boost the advantage to 17-10. The Cardinals didn’t pull closer than four points the rest of the way.
That set up a deciding game five.
Pape led New Bremen with 43 assists. Diana Heitkamp had 13 digs, Pape had 12 and Taylor Paul had 11. Ashton Heitkamp, Kaylee Freund and Puthoff each had four block assists.
Monroeville finishes 26-2 overall.
Reach Bryant Billing at 937-538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter and @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook.